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Denounced By Her Classmates, Anti-War Russian Teen Faces A Long Prison Term

The Russian government did not wait for the trial of Olesya Krivtsova, a 19-year-old student from the northern city of Arkhangelsk, to even begin before adding it to his list of “terrorists and extremists”.

On January 10, Krivtsova is under house arrest for the second month, and she faces more than 10 years in prison on charges of “justifying terrorism” and “discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

“The worst options are spinning in my head,” Krivtsova told Current Time in an interview from her home. “I understand perfectly well that they can put me in prison … I am trying to come to terms with this possibility.”

Krivtsova’s Kafka affair began on December 26, when police came to search the apartment she shares with her husband.

“Olesya didn’t see the search,” her mother, Natalya Krivtsova, told Radio Liberty. “She was taken out of the apartment 10 minutes after they arrived.”

According to her mother, during the search, a police officer stood over Krivtsova and intimidated her with a sledgehammer. Later, an employee of the anti-extremist center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs separately told her and her husband that the visit was “greetings from a group of Wagner mercenaries.”

Nineteen-year-old Olesya Krivtsova in the Arkhangelsk courtroom.

Nineteen-year-old Olesya Krivtsova in the Arkhangelsk courtroom.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, the Kremlin-linked Wagner group released a brutal video in which convicted murderer Yevgeny Nuzhin, recruited from prison to fight in Ukraine, was branded a traitor and killed with a sledgehammer. This video was called The Hammer Of Revenge.

After Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, thousands of anti-war dissidents have faced prosecution and prosecution under hastily passed laws criminalizing the deliberate dissemination of what the state calls false information about the war or “discrediting” the military. Krivtsova herself was fined 30,000 rubles ($425) in April for posting anti-war stickers in public places.

“The Destruction of Human Life”

During the first court hearings after Kryvtsova’s arrest, it became clear that the case against her was based on denunciations by university classmates who participated in a closed university Telegram chat that Radio Liberty was able to view.

“At the hearing, they mentioned two names of people I knew who were in that chat. They discussed how best to file a denunciation – to the police or to [Federal Security Service]she told Current Time, a Russian-language network run by Radio Liberty in collaboration with Voice of America.

“I knew them before,” she added. “I had a pretty close relationship with one. From time to time we crossed paths and chatted. Another witness once helped me carry a heavy bag. The strangest thing is that one of them sent me a copy of the chat.”

She added that her lawyers were not given copies of the denunciations that could have been filed.

In October, chat participants were discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when one of them posted screenshots from Kryvtsova’s Instagram Stories, in which she reposted Ukrainian authorities’ advice on how Russian soldiers should surrender and photos of Ukrainian civilians being killed.

“This is illegal,” one participant wrote. Maybe open a case?

Moments later, the same participant wrote, “I wrote to the commander. He has friends in [security] authorities and will consult with them.

The case against Krivtsova was apparently based on denunciations by classmates who participated in a closed university Telegram chat.  (archive photo)

The case against Krivtsova was apparently based on denunciations by classmates who participated in a closed university Telegram chat. (archive photo)

Then someone posted a screenshot of a post by a university teacher Alexei Feldt, who wrote that “denunciations do not make a patriot,” and the participants began to discuss it.

“I think denunciations and surrendering to someone are two different things,” wrote one of them. “A denunciation of someone is done for personal reasons.”

“What we have here is an illegal act. I think we have an obligation to talk about it, especially since we know what they do to our boys who turn themselves in,” added another, apparently referring to unsubstantiated Russian propaganda claims that Russian prisoners are routinely abused. in Ukrainian prisons.

“Reporting is the duty of a patriot,” wrote a third. “Better yet, media coverage. Intimidation works better than the Interior Ministry.”

Olesya perceives these criminal charges as an ordeal that she must endure. The main thing is that it does not break and does not break.

Kryvtsova said she believed the students were driven by “ideological” beliefs.

“I think that they all consider their actions appropriate and fair and that I should be punished in accordance with the law,” she said. “I believe that they are guided only by such ideas.

“People imbued with a militaristic ideology can easily look for dissidents because they believe that dissent can lead to the defeat of the army, the president or the country,” she said. “So they think they are judging “for the sake of good.” At least in their own minds.

“But even if you are a person of ideas, even if you are ready to defend your country with such means, you can probably find another way,” she added. “To destroy a man’s life because of his views – in this case, rather harmless ones – is immoral.”

Mystery Tickets

Two days after her arrest, Kryvtsova was due for a custody hearing, during which the court ordered her to remain under house arrest pending trial.

A week later, the police arrested her again. They demanded a new custody hearing, stating in court that two one-way train tickets to the Russian border regions had been bought in her name and arguing that she was a flight risk. Kryvtsova denied buying the tickets, adding that she would not be able to because she did not have a valid internal passport.

During the hearing, defense lawyers requested documents from the state railway showing when, where and how the alleged tickets were purchased, as well as the opportunity to question any witnesses. The judge denied their request.

Ultimately, the court denied the prosecution’s motion to place her in custody, instead adding restrictions on her house arrest preventing her from using the Internet.

“She did not violate the conditions of house arrest and did not interfere with the investigation,” said Krivtsova’s mother. “Olesya perceives these criminal charges as an ordeal that she must endure. The main thing is that it is not broken and does not break.

“Olesya did nothing wrong,” she said. “She is not to blame for anything. She has nothing to be sorry about.”

Written by RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coulson based on RFE/RL’s North.Realities report. Kirill Belov-Belikov, correspondent of Current Time, also participated in this report.

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