A court in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur has registered felony charges against a local man accused of repeatedly “discrediting” the Russian military in posts on social media. The defendant in the case is a 54-year-old construction worker and former police officer named Sergey Kalalb, whose son, Nikita Kovalenko, died fighting in Ukraine. Meduza reviews what’s been reported about this case.

On February 21, 2023, Kalalb shared an anti-war TikTok video in his WhatsApp group chat. (When he posted the content, there were 80 people in the group.) The video reportedly featured a woman saying, “Ladies, why are you sending your children to war? Go to the Defense Ministry and tell them to take them out of there!” 

When Kalalb posted the video, it reached Stepan Prikhodko, a local police lieutenant who joined the group chat using an invitation hyperlink. Two days later, police officers informed Kalalb that he was now a suspect in a criminal case for repeatedly “discrediting” Russia’s army. Before the end of the month, state investigators raided Kalalb’s home and interrogated him. A judge has imposed pretrial restrictions prohibiting Kalalb from certain activities, including Internet access. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison.

Sergey Kalalb has already been convicted once of “discrediting” Russia’s army. In August 2022, the Nikolayevsk-on-Amur City Court fined him 30,000 rubles (about $300) for disseminating negative comments about the war in Ukraine. According to journalists at RFE/RL, the case file in that earlier misdemeanor trial included 378 screenshots from Kalalb’s WhatsApp group chat and numerous videos and statements he made over a three-month period. Police Lieutenant Stepan Prikhodko filed the charges against Kalalb.

Kalalb’s son, Nikita Kovalenko, was a 32-year-old officer in the Russian army when he was killed in Ukraine in March 2022. Kalalb told journalists that he hadn’t communicated for a long time with his son before his death.

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