Two Moscow district courts on September 2 blocked prosecutors’ attempts to deny the parental rights of two couples – Pyotr and Yelena Khomsky and Dmitry and Olga Prokazov -- seen with their children at unauthorized protests for the registration of independent and opposition city-council candidates. Critics have denounced the lawsuits as attempts to intimidate Russians into avoiding anti-government protests.
The Khomskys had been filmed at an August 3 protest in downtown Moscow with their 10-year-old, three-year-old, and three-month-old daughters; the Prokazovs with their year-old son at an unauthorized July 27 protest. Тhe government classifies both events as “mass disturbances.”
In a statement, the head of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, declared the Nikulinsky court’s finding for the Khomskys “absolutely correct” and “a sensible decision that I welcome.”
“Moreover, I consider that it’s necessary to ask to what extent there was a basis for the lawsuit itself, so that the prosecutor’s office will figure out whether it’s worth taking it to court,” said Fedotov.
Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Anna Kuznetsova has stated that Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office is now reviewing the grounds for the lawsuit to deprive the Prokazovs of their parental rights.
In both cases, the judges at Moscow’s Nikulinsky and Lefortovo district courts on September 2 warned the couples about being with their children again at such protests. The Khomskys have said that they do not understand the warning and will file a complaint, Interfax reported.
Speaking to reporters, Khomsky attorney Tatyana Sustina termed the Nikulinsky court’s warning “very interesting,” arguing that it doubles as a warning that the couple could still lose their parental rights if they are seen again at a protest with their children, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported.
Prosecutors had charged that the couple had “knowingly allowed their daughters to be located next to a crowd of demonstrators and law enforcement employees, with the goal of preventing their own possible arrest by the police.”
Russian national media repeatedly broadcast images of the family, describing Khomsky, a former volunteer for opposition figure Aleksei Navalny, as a “professional provocateur.”
The Prokazaov case, in turn, involved an indirect connection with Navalny’s associate, anti-corruption activist Lyubov Sobol.
The government alleged that the Prokazovs on July 27 gave their baby son to а man, Sergei Fomin, a volunteer for Sobol, to enable him to pass through a police cordon without being detained.
The federal Investigative Committee filed criminal charges against the Prokazovs in early August for allegedly placing their son in danger and not fulfilling their duties toward a minor.
At the time, police were searching for Fomin, a cousin of Olga Prokazova, on charges of taking part in a “mass disturbance.”
Fomin later turned himself in to police. He is currently in detention awaiting trial.
-With reporting by Interfax, RFE/RL's Russian Service, and RIA Novosti