May 21, 2024

One Flower For Every Month In Prison


One Flower For Every Month In Prison
Maykop, the capital of Adygea. NJCHCI, Wikimedia Commons.

In December 2023, 18-year-old Kevin Lik became the youngest person convicted of espionage in Russia. The Russian-German citizen, who was 16 at the time, was accused of taking pictures of military bases and sending them via email to a foreign power. Sota visited his mother's house in Maykop, Adygea Republic, to see where the teenager lived.

Victoria had not entered Kevin's room until Sota visited her. A calendar with colorful illustrations on the closet was still open on the page for December 2022. On his bed were ecology certificates, frog drawings, documents of enrollment in university chemistry and biology courses. The room is filled with encyclopedias. Kevin kept a herbarium with local samples that he packed into a suitcase.

The bed is covered in diplomas from multiple language contests in English and German. He won an All-Russian German Language Olympiad in Moscow, for which he received an award of R200,000 from Murat Kumpliov, head of the Adygea Republic. A newspaper on the bed features a picture of him shaking hands with the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Government, Dmitry Chenyshenko.

Lik was born in Montabaur, Germany, in 2005. His parents separated when he was a year old. His mother, Victoria, a caretaker of elderly people, yearned to return to Russia. In 2017, the Lik family moved to Maykop, the capital of Adygea and a bankrupt industrial town of 140,000 with a military base. Now, Victoria regrets that decision.

In the summer of 2022, Victoria wanted to return to Germany with her fiancee. Victoria applied for a short-term visa and Kevin went to the German Embassy in Moscow to receive a stamp confirming that he lived in Adygea. Kevin and his mother got plane tickets and began packing.

In February 2023, Victoria was summoned to the military enlistment office. She needed to obtain a seal saying that Kevin had been removed from the military register due to his permanent residence in Germany, which had been refused the day before. She was detained at the facility for multiple hours and then held in administrative detention for allegedly using obscene language. She was taken for a medical examination and spent 10 days in detention. 

On February 23, 2023, the Lik family was about to fly from Sochi to Frankfurt Am Main via Istanbul. Victoria told Sota that, on that day "We had just left the hotel [and] walked about 20 steps. A gray minibus stops. People surround us, start filming, and say that Kevin is accused of treason and we are detained."

A state-appointed lawyer insisted that Kevin plead guilty. After long hours of interrogation, the exhausted 16-year-old succumbed to the pressure. Victoria cannot discuss her son's trials, since she signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Victoria was "far from politics." But, after her son's imprisonment, she began meeting other imprisoned teenagers' parents. Victoria only eats when friends come over. Kevin, who is only allowed to receive visits twice a month, is frustrated that he could not finish tenth grade. The teenager has been deprived of his calculator and textbooks in prison. He has been beaten up by his cellmate.

There are flowers on the window sill. Kevin asked his mother to add one every month he is in custody. This month there are 15.

 

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