MOSCOW -- A Russian couple threatened by prosecutors with losing their three children for bringing them to a protest rally in Moscow have called their prosecution "a lawless attempt to frighten all the activists."
Pyotr and Yelena Khomsky told Current Time on August 26 that the prosecutor’s office of Moscow’s Nikulinsky district had filed a request to deprive them of their parental rights because they had attended a protest rally earlier this month with their three daughters.
The couple said the court will look into the request on September 2. They also said that they had never been informed about a preliminary hearing that was held in Moscow on August 22.
The couple and the three girls – aged 3 months, 3 years, and 10 years -- were shown on state television channels during the August 3 rally.
Pyotr Khomsky was described as "a professional provocateur" and "a bodyguard of Aleksei Navalny" -- the Russian opposition politician and vocal Kremlin critic.
Khomsky told Current Time -- the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA -- that he came to the rally intentionally but did not hold any placards or posters and did not chant any slogans.
The couple said the prosecutors' request was aimed at "frightening us and other activists" and vowed to fight to keep their children.
"We will not allow them to do that. They will sputter in their own anger and lawlessness. We will not give them [our children.] They are not almighty as they think they are," Pyotr Khomsky said.
He also expressed regret that many people in Russia don't do enough to defend their rights.
"People usually try to stay calm, hoping that the authorities will not bother them, if they stay unnoticed. But [the authorities] will [bother them]. First, they will 'eat up' those who are more active, and then, because they will need more 'food,' they will start dealing with those who sat calm. And in the end, they will start eating each other," Khomsky said.
The case follows a similar move on August 6, in which the Moscow city prosecutor's office requested that Dmitry and Olga Prokazov have their parental rights removed for bringing their 1-year-old son to an unsanctioned rally in front of the Moscow mayor's office on July 27.
That move sparked harsh criticism among ordinary Muscovites and human rights organizations across Russia.
That couple was charged with leaving a child in danger and violation of parental duties. Investigators said that the Prokazovs brought their son to a rally on July 27, where they handed the boy to an activist, Sergei Fomin, so that he could pass through a police cordon with the child in his arms to avoid arrest.
The couple said that Fomin is Olga Prokazova's cousin and godfather and was helping them to take care of their son during the rally.
Fomin, who was charged with taking part in "mass riots," is currently in pretrial detention.
Several sanctioned and unsanctioned rallies have taken place in Moscow in recent weeks in which protesters have demanded that independent and opposition candidates be allowed to run in upcoming municipal elections.
Police detained more than 1,300 people at the July 27 demonstration to demand free municipal polls, and more than 1,000 people were detained during a similar rally in Moscow on August 3.
Dozens of protesters have since been fined or given jail sentences for organizing and participating in the unsanctioned rally.
Several others are facing criminal charges for taking part in "mass unrest" and allegedly assaulting police and are being kept in pretrial detention until at least September 27.