(Moscow) A Russian girl separated from her father after drawing a drawing in support of Ukraine has been entrusted to her mother, whom she had not seen for years, a new episode in an emblematic story of repression in Russia.

Denounced by her school after drawing missiles flying towards a Ukrainian family, 13-year-old Maria Moskaliova, nicknamed Masha, was taken from her father, who was raising her alone, and placed in a home in March.

The father, Alexei Moskaliov, has since been sentenced to two years in prison and placed in detention. A hearing is to be held Thursday in Efremov, 300 km south of Moscow, to decide whether or not to restrict his parental rights.

On Wednesday evening, on the eve of this crucial hearing, the authorities suddenly announced that the mother, Olga Sitchikhina, who had not seen Masha for several years, had returned and had collected the child.

“Olga removed Masha from the social rehabilitation center where she was at her request,” Russian Children’s Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova said on Telegram on Wednesday evening.

“Let’s hope everything will be fine for the mother and the daughter,” added this Russian official, targeted in another case by an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court accusing her of having deported Ukrainian children to Russia.

“They hadn’t lived together long and communicated very little. Initially, Masha didn’t want to see her mother,” Ms Lvova-Belova said. “But she changed her mind, she told me herself on the phone,” she added.

The case of Masha and her father has aroused great emotion in Russia, becoming emblematic of the repression against those who denounce the military offensive launched by the Kremlin against Ukraine.

An online petition launched in Russia to demand the return of the child to his father has collected more than 145,000 signatures, despite the climate of fear.

After being separated from his daughter, Alexei Moskaliov was accused of having “discredited” the army by criticizing the military operation in Ukraine on social networks, and sentenced at the end of March to two years in prison.

This 54-year-old man had fled just before the verdict, while under house arrest. But he was found and arrested last week in Belarus, a neighboring country and an ally of Russia.