Russian teen faces years in jail over social media post criticizing war in Ukraine
Olesya Krivtsova sports an anti-Putin tattoo on one ankle and a bracelet that tracks her every move on the other.
The 19-year-old from Russia’s Arkhangelsk region must wear the device while she is under house arrest after she was charged over social media posts that authorities say discredit the Russian army and justify terrorism.
Russian officials added Krivtsova to the list of terrorists and extremists, on a par with ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban, for posting an Instagram story about the explosion on the Crimean bridge in October that also criticized Russia for invading Ukraine.
Krivtsova, a student at Northern (Arctic) Federal University in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, is also facing criminal charges for discrediting the Russian army for making an allegedly critical repost of the war in a student chat on the Russian social network VK.
Currently, Krivtsova is staying under house arrest in her mother’s apartment in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region, banned from going online and using other forms of communication.
“Olesya’s case is not the first, nor is it the last,” Alexei Kichin, Krivtsova’s lawyer, told CNN.
Kichin said the teenager may face up to three years in prison for discrediting the Russian army and up to seven years in prison under the article of justification of terrorism. However, Krivtsova’s legal defense hopes for a softer punishment such as a fine.
Independent human rights monitor OVD-Info said at least 61 cases were initiated in Russia in 2022 on the charges of justification of terrorism on the internet, with 26 leading to sentencing so far.
Olesya’s mother, Natalya Krivtsova, says the government is trying to give a warning to the public, with her daughter being in effect “publicly flogged” for not keeping her views to herself.
“We live in the Arkhangelsk region and this is a vast region but too remote from the center. There are no more protests in Arkhangelsk, so they are trying to strangle everything that is left at its early stage,” Natalya Krivtsova told CNN.
A local head of the Communist Party, Alexander Novikov, publicly mocked the teenager on state television, calling her a fool who should be sent to the front lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region so that she could “look into the eyes” of the military fighting as part of the Arkhangelsk battalion.
This is not Olesya Krivtsova’s first run-in with the authorities for publicly airing her views. Last May, she faced administrative charges for discrediting the Russian army by distributing anti-war posters.
Matters became more serious when she was accused of discrediting the Russian army on social media last October. According to Krivtsova’s lawyer, a repeat offense under the same article turns into a criminal case.
“She has a heightened sense of justice, which makes her life hard. The inability to remain silent is now a major sin in the Russian Federation,” her mother told CNN.
According to Natalya Krivtsova, police burst into an apartment on December 26 where her daughter was living with her husband Ilya, forcing the young people to lie face down on the ground and allegedly threatening them with a sledgehammer, which the officers told her was a “hello” from the Wagner Group, a private military contractor headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin.
CNN has reached out to the state police in Arkhangelsk for comment.
“Olesya was very frightened because she saw the video in which a prisoner was killed with a sledgehammer,” her mother told CNN.
In the notorious video referred to by Natalya Krivtsova, mercenaries from the Wagner Group, which actively recruits prisoners, apparently executed a former convict, Yevgeny Nuzhin, with a sledgehammer after he attempted to flee his post. The video description said: “The traitor received the traditional, primordial Wagnerian punishment.”
“The state has some strange policies: prisoners go to war, and children go to prison,” she said.