Russian teenager faces years in prison for social media post criticizing war in Ukraine


Olesya Krivtsova has an anti-Putin tattoo on one ankle and a bracelet that tracks her every move on the other.

The 19-year-old, from Russia’s Arkhangelsk region, has been ordered to wear the device while under house arrest after being charged with posts on social media that authorities say discredit the Russian army and justify terrorism.

Russian officials added Krivtsova to the list of terrorists and extremists equated with ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban for posting an Instagram story about the Crimean bridge explosion in October, which also credited Russia for the invasion to Ukraine was criticized.

Krivtsova, a student at Northern (Arctic) Federal University in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, is also facing prosecution for discrediting the Russian army for making an allegedly critical re-run of the war in a student chat on Russian social network VK.

Krivtsova is currently under house arrest at her mother’s home in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region, and is not allowed to go online or use any other means of communication.

“Olesya’s case is neither the first nor the last,” Alexei Kichin, Krivtsova’s lawyer, told CNN.

Olesya Krivtsova, pictured at a court hearing, is now under house arrest at her mother's home.

Independent human rights monitor OVD-Info said that in 2022 in Russia at least 61 cases were opened on allegations of justifying terrorism online, of which 26 have so far led to a conviction.

Olesya’s mother, Natalya Krivtsova, says the government is trying to warn the public that her daughter is being “publicly flogged” for not keeping her views to herself.

“We live in the Arkhangelsk region, and this is a huge region, but too far from the center. There are no more protests in Arkhangelsk, so they are trying to strangle whatever is left at an early stage,” Natalya Krivtsova told CNN.

Local Communist Party leader Alexander Novikov publicly mocked the teenager on state television, calling her a fool who should be sent to the front lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region so she could “face” the military fighting as Part of the Arkhangelsk Battalion.

This is not Olesya Krivtsova’s first clash with the authorities for publicly expressing her views. Last May she faced administrative charges for discrediting the Russian army by distributing anti-war posters.

Matters became even more serious when she was accused of discrediting the Russian army on social media last October. According to Krivtsova’s lawyer, a repeated offense under the same article becomes a criminal case.

“She has a heightened sense of justice, which makes life difficult for her. Inability to remain silent is now a major sin in the Russian Federation,” her mother told CNN.

Olesya Krivtsova is seen in handcuffs.

According to Natalya Krivtsova, on December 26, police burst into an apartment where her daughter lived with her husband Ilya, forced the young people to lie face down on the floor and allegedly threatened them with a sledgehammer, from which officials said was a “hello” from the Wagner Group, a private military company headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin.

CNN has reached out to Arkhangelsk state police for comment.

“Olesya was very scared because she saw the video of a prisoner being killed with a sledgehammer,” her mother told CNN.

In the infamous video referenced by Natalya Krivtsova, mercenaries from the Wagner Group, which actively recruits prisoners, apparently executed a former convict, Yevgeny Nuzhin, with a sledgehammer after he tried to flee his post. The video description reads, “The traitor received the traditional, original Wagner punishment.”

“The state has a strange policy: Prisoners go to war and children go to jail,” she said.