It was nearly 10 p.m., and Andrei Novichkov was heading to the subway when the riot police collared him in the windswept cold of Triumfalnaya Square, the site of demonstrations last week.
This time, his mom got really mad.
Andrei is 14, wears a wispy moustache and sometimes tells people he’s 15, so they’ll take him more seriously. He grew up loving computers and videos, and became so technically adept that friends flocked for help. As he grew older, heading past 12, he started recording real-life events. In November 2009, he made a video of a nationalist march and got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was his first arrest.
“Of course I went again,” he said.
Andrei soon developed an impressive portfolio. A friend introduced him to an editor at a Web channel called Fronde TV. He was taken on a year ago, after his mother signed papers giving her consent. She thought a press card would protect him.
Over the summer, he documented a confrontation involving a developer with connections to the mayor’s office who demolished a residential building over neighborhood objections. Hired goons kept the residents at bay, but Andrei refused to run off and suffered a beating at their hands. He had gone from sitting at a computer to standing on principle.
When the police detained him Dec. 5, for the fifth time, it was for a curfew violation. His mom had to pick him up at 2 a.m.
When he started to work for the Web channel, he said, he neither knew nor cared about politics. Then he saw human rights activists being beaten, protesters being arrested, the weak being pushed around.
“The Internet is the only way for people to find out the truth,” Andrei said, as he recounted the episode over a cup of thick hot chocolate. “I’m on the Internet until my eyes hurt.”