A teacher in western Russia has been under criminal investigation since late March for making anti-war comments in the classroom that were secretly recorded by students, according to an April 7 interview on Radio Liberty.
Irina Gen, 45, was an English teacher at an elite school for young athletes in the country, many of whom qualify for major championships abroad.
In an audio recording published on Telegram on March 31, a student is heard asking Gen why Russia had been banned from the upcoming multi-sport European Championships.
“So long as Russia doesn’t behave itself in a civilized manner, this will go on forever,” Gen replied in the recording. “They began to bomb Western Ukraine … They wanted to get to Kyiv, to overthrow Zelensky and the government. This is, by the way, a sovereign state. There’s a sovereign government there.”
“Well, we don’t know all the particulars,” a female student said.
“Exactly! You (plural) don’t know anything. In fact, you don’t know anything at all,” Gen replied. “We’ve got a totalitarian regime here in place. Any kind of dissidence is regarded a thought crime. We all will be sent away for 15 years.”
The conversation was recorded on March 18, according to Gen’s interview with Radio Liberty. She believes her students’ parents “persuaded the children to make a recording, which would be handed over to the authorities.”
Authorities alerted: Gen said a Russian Federal Security officer came to the school on March 23, and told her she “had made a big mistake” by telling the students about Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure including the bombings in Mariupol — which Russian authorities have denied.
“It never occurred to me that someone could snitch on their teacher, or anyone else for that matter,” Gen told Radio Liberty. She resigned from her position on April 1.
Jail threat: Gen is being investigated for violating a new censorship law that bans the spread of so-called “false information” discrediting the Russian military. It carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 5 million rubles (about $60,000).
Gen told Radio Liberty she hoped she would only be given a fine, and not made an example of. “There will definitely be an excruciating trial waiting for me. And then a verdict, which will dictate how I can begin to build my life anew,” she said
CNN has reached out to Gen’s lawyer for comment on the case. The Human Rights media project OVD-info says Gen is under house arrest.