March 29, 2023

Russian student arrested for posting on social media

Olesya Krivtsova, 20, has an evocative tattoo on her right leg: it is the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin, encased in a spider’s body, which reads Orwell’s famous quote: “Big Brother is watching you [”Big Brother is watching you”]. Anti-war posts on social media earned the student of the Northern Federal University in Arkhangelsk, located on the shores of the Dvina Bay in the White Sea, inclusion in the Russian Federation’s official list of terrorists and extremists, along with members of the Islamic State and perpetrators of school attacks .

Wearing an electronic bracelet and under house arrest, Olesya Krivtsova now misses classes, can’t talk on the phone or access the internet. One of the most critical publications, and which put her in a delicate situation with the Russian authorities, was a text about the “happiness of Ukrainians” when the bridge exploded, in the Kerch Strait, which connects Russia with the Crimean peninsula. According to the bill BBC, Olesya Krivtsova was on the phone with her mother when she heard the front door open and police burst into her home. They took away his cell phone and told him to lie on the floor. The student is accused of justifying terrorism and defaming the Russian Armed Forces, crimes for which she could face up to ten years in prison.

But the “Big Brother” spying on her was, after all, a group of students who, on an online chat platform, discussed whether they should report Olesya’s content to the authorities about the so-called “special military operation.” According to the BBC, in the same forum, Olesya Krivtsova is accused of writing “defeatist and extremist provocations”, which are not consistent with “times of war” and “must be cut in the bud”. Then the plan was drawn up: “First, we’ll try to discredit her. If she doesn’t get it, we’ll let the security services handle it.” Among one of the students’ interventions, one can also read: “Complaining is the duty of a patriot.” He followed to the letter a directive, based on Putin’s statements, which calls for “true patriots” to be filtered out from among “scum and traitors”.

The case of Olesya Krivtsova is not unique. Since the full-scale war in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, several students have denounced teachers and staff have denounced their colleagues, retrieving a practice from the Soviet era. Public criticism of the invasion is banned, with new laws being implemented against people who spread “false information” about the military and “defame” the Russian military.

In Arkhangelsk, the city where Olesya Krivtsova lives and studies, support for the war is, according to the BBC, significant. You can find a large mural of a Russian soldier killed in Ukraine, accompanied by the words: “To be a fighter is to live forever.” Olesya Krivtsova decides to give the phrase another meaning. At a court hearing where her defense lawyers were unable to persuade the judge to lift her travel restrictions, the young student appeared wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a police van and the description “school bus”. The judge decides to keep her under house arrest, but the student does not budge. Instead, he tells the BBC: “You can’t put them all behind bars. At some point they will run out of cells.”

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