Russia seeks to strip parental rights from protest couple

Move appears to be targetted against one-year-old baby's mother's cousin

Oliver Carroll
Tuesday 06 August 2019 17:13 BST
(Sergei Bobylev/TASS)

Russian authorities are seeking to strip parental rights from a couple who attended a protest march with their one-year-old baby.

In an announcement published on Tuesday morning, Moscow prosecutors claimed the parents had put the baby’s life at risk by “handing him over … to a third person.”

State investigators announced they would be opening two criminal investigations against the parents, Dmitry Pashkov and Olga Prokazova, who have a second child, aged seven.

But the move appears to be targeted not only on the baby’s parents, but a relative, Sergei Fomin, Ms Prozakova's cousin, who is the “third person” referred to in the prosecutor’s request.

Mr Fomin is an associate of the opposition politician Lyubov Sobol, one of 16 independent candidates controversially barred from running in September Moscow city elections.

Last week, pro-Kremlin bloggers published a video claiming Mr Fomin was a ring-leader of the 27 July unauthorised protest, and that he used his nephew to “avoid arrest.” Mr Fomin denied both accusations before apparently going into hiding. On Monday, he was declared a wanted man.

The authorities' unashamedly aggressive approach seems designed to cause anxiety among Russia’s opposition – largely decimated and isolated, but re-energised by the large protests that followed exclusion from September’s elections.

At one point, there were questions about where the Kremlin might stop in their clamp-down. But after weeks of increasingly harsh measures, few doubts remain.

Police have demonstrably targeted the youngest protesters. The NGO watchdog OVD-Info said that nearly one in 10 of the 1,001 arrested on Saturday were minors.

The vast majority of those facing criminal charges are also young – between 21 and 25. Some of them appeared to have been plucked out of the crowd completely at random. The fear is now that they will receive high prison sentences, and tarnished futures, to create a high tariff on protest.

The Kremlin’s forceful response has not only focused on the protesters but on their families too. Police have embarked on night-time raids on lovers, parents, aunts, uncles, and, in several cases, grandparents too.

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