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Russian police jail kids who took flowers and 'No to War' signs to Ukraine's embassy

Children were detained in Moscow on Tuesday, after trying to leave flowers at Ukraine's embassy. They were carrying signs that read, "No to War."
Alexandra Arkhipova/Screenshot by NPR
Children were detained in Moscow on Tuesday, after trying to leave flowers at Ukraine's embassy. They were carrying signs that read, "No to War."

They carried flowers, and handmade signs reading "нет войне" — No to War. They tried to leave their message outside Ukraine's embassy in Moscow — and for that, they were arrested.

That's the story emerging in Russia about five children, ages 7 to 11, who went with their mothers to visit the embassy on Tuesday. Their excursion could have served as a reminder of shared humanity, even during a conflict. But police in Moscow didn't see it that way. They detained the kids and parents, putting them in a holding cell.

The police officers shouted at the parents, threatening that the "brave moms" might lose their parental rights, according to Alexandra Arkhipova, who posted photos and a video of the ordeal on her Facebook page.

The Moscow children's signs include images of what, for now at least, seems like an impossible equation: a Russian flag followed by a plus sign and a Ukrainian flag, equaling a heart.

The case got the attention of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who shared images of the children and said it was another sign of the toll Russian President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine is taking on children.

Referring to Putin as he discussed the kids being detained in Moscow, Kuleba said, "This is how scared the man is."

A video posted to Facebook and other social media sites by Alexandra Arkhipova shows a young girl weeping as she is held in a cell. The girl, her mother and other children were arrested as they tried to bring flowers to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow, Arkhipova said.
/ Alexandra Arkhipova/Screenshot by NPR
/
Alexandra Arkhipova/Screenshot by NPR
A video posted to Facebook and other social media sites by Alexandra Arkhipova shows a young girl weeping as she is held in a cell. The girl, her mother and other children were arrested as they tried to bring flowers to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow, Arkhipova said.

Arkhipova said that she relayed details about the arrests to the website OVD-info, which monitors potential police abuses in Russia. The site posted a video of what it said was the moment of the arrest. In the footage, a child's cries can be heard echoing down the street where several police vehicles were massed.

Arkhipova, who is an anthropology expert and researcher at RANEPA university, says the two mothers are Ekaterina Zavizion and Olga Alter. She says they were arrested along with their kids, Liza, 11, Gosha, 11, Matvey, 9, David, 7, and Sofya, 7.

"A video attachment showed one of the women explaining to a crying girl from inside a cell that 'the task is for fewer people to gather and say they're against the war,' " The Moscow Times reports.

After they were arrested, the group was initially told they might have to spend the night in a cell. But, Arkhipova said in an update, they were released and are now facing potential court dates and fines.

"Right now, we need the help of the community, help of journalists and human rights activists," she said, as she shared the story on Facebook, Telegram and other platforms.

As of Monday, Russian authorities had detained roughly 6,400 anti-war demonstrators since the start of the invasion last week, according to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.