- Russian teachers have been punished after students reported them for making anti-war remarks.
- One teacher is facing a prison sentence of up to 10 years after her comments were recorded.
- At least two others were fined 30,000 rubles, while another was fired for her political views.
A Russian teacher is facing a prison sentence, and several others were fined or fired after their students reported them for making anti-war comments, BBC Russia first reported.
Irina Gen, 55, an English teacher in the western Russian city of Penza, was speaking to eighth-grade athletes who complained that they couldn’t compete in international sporting events, per the BBC, who spoke with Gen’s lawyer. Many sporting bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, banned Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Gen was recorded on March 18 telling the schoolgirls that she believed the West’s decision was correct. “Until Russia starts behaving in a civilized way, this will go on forever,” she said. “We are living in a totalitarian regime. Any dissent is considered a crime.”
According to the BBC, she told the students that Russia intended to overthrow another nation’s government and that Ukraine is a sovereign state.
The teacher received a call from Russia’s federal security service five days later and was told by the authorities that they had received footage of her criticizing Moscow’s direction, The Guardian reported.
Gen told The Guardian she had “no idea” she was being recorded. She said she told authorities she was “merely citing respected western outlets like AP and BBC,” which she believed were professional and objective.
An excerpt of her conversation with the students was posted to the Russian Telegram channel Baza. Baza reported that the schoolgirls had disagreed with Gen and handed the recording to the law.
On March 30, a criminal case was opened against Gen under a new Russian law broadly criminalizing “fake news” about the invasion of Ukraine, per the BBC.
According to the law, she could face up to 10 years in prison or fines of up to 5 million rubles ($60,882). If her actions are found to have led to “grave consequences,” her sentence could be increased to 15 years.
Other teachers were fined or fired for speaking out
Another English teacher, Marina Dubrova, at School No. 6 in the city of Korsakov, was filmed by her students while speaking out against the invasion of Ukraine, the BBC reported, citing Baza.
On March 17, Dubrova, 57, said she didn’t support the actions of the Russian army. She was later arrested, fined 30,000 rubles, and handed disciplinary action from the school, though she wasn’t fired, per Baza.
Dubrova told Russian alternative news outlet Sibreal that she was initially “struck by the level of hatred among our children” and had witnessed students shouting: “Crimea is ours” and other pro-Russian slogans in her school.
As such, she started playing a video at the end of lessons titled “A World Without War” — in which children sing anti-war lyrics in Russian and Ukrainian — prompting a student to ask Dubrova about her attitude to the “special operation” in Ukraine, per Sibreal.
“I replied that I considered the hostilities a mistake, and they, as it turned out, recorded the conversation on the phone,” Dubrova told Sibreal, according to the BBC. She said she suspected the student had told their family about the conversation and given a recording of the conversation to the authorities.
Similarly, Evgenia Paygina, a lecturer at Amur State University, was fined 30,000 rubles after being found guilty of “disseminating false information in the presence of students” that “discredited the actions” of Russia’s military in Ukraine, according to the local city court’s Telegram channel, the BBC reported.
Paygina had told her students that Russia was acting like Nazi Germany in World War II by bombing civilians in Ukraine, and criticized people who put the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol on their cars, according to Russian outlet SM News.
Meanwhile, math teacher Elena Baibekova in Astrakhan, a city in southern Russia, was fired after students complained about her political remarks, reported Russian outlet Kavkaz.Realli on April 1.
Baibekova had previously attended anti-war protests but denied engaging in any political conversations with her students and said the school sought her removal because of her political views, the outlet reported.
Moscow has cracked down on anti-war dissent and disapproval of its armed forces since the invasion of Ukraine began. Last month, Russian authorities instructed schools to conduct “patriotic” lessons for children as young as kindergarteners to promote anti-Ukraine sentiments and glorify Russia’s war history.
On Tuesday, Russia also made new recommendations for schools to organize classes for students in grades 5 to 11 about how the country would “overcome” the pressure from Western sanctions, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.