, Moscow, Russian Federation, Aug 15 – Hundreds of people, many clutching stuffed toys, rallied in Moscow on Wednesday to demand the release of two teenagers accused of “extremism” in a case they say is part of a growing Kremlin crackdown on Russian youth.
Anna Pavlikova and Maria Dubovik, aged 18 and 19 respectively, are accused along with eight others of creating an “extremist organisation” that was infiltrated by Russian security services.
But the lawyer of the two teens said the investigation against the group constituted entrapment.
“I’m shocked by the fact that the authorities want to get their dirty hands even on children,” 48-year-old Ilya Kuzmina told AFP at the “mothers march” that took place in heavy rain in the centre of the Russian capital.
The young women face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.
The demonstrators are also asking that Pavlikova and Dubovik at least be placed under house arrest rather than in provisional detention, where they have been held for the last five months.
The health of the teenagers has declined during their time in detention, according to their lawyers and relatives.
Pavlikova has been suffering from panic attacks and a loss of hearing, while Dubovik is reported to have a tumour..
Lawyer Maxim Pashkov told AFP the security services had themselves pushed for the creation of the allegedly extremist group.
The aim of the organisation had been to “restore Russia to its former glory” and offered financing for firearms training, he said.
“The allegation is based on the testimony of three infiltrating security service agents, who have been out of contact since the group was arrested,” Pashkov said.
Those arrested, aged between 17 and 30 at the time, had simply been idly complaining about the state of the country, he added.
An increasing number of Russians, some of whom are teenagers, are being prosecuted because of posts on social media — in some cases even “likes” or reposts — branded extremist by authorities.
Last year, tens of thousands of young people took to the streets in protests organised by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is ignored by the Russian state media but is very active of social networks.