TOMSINO, Russia -- A Russian girl's plea to President Vladimir Putin to help her overworked mother has landed the 12-year-old in a she said/he said dispute with the Investigative Committee of Pskov Oblast.
The committee on March 18 described as unfounded the family's complaints that they had been threatened and harassed since news of her December appeal was made public.
But the website Fontanka.ru quoted the girl's mother, Yelena Perchikova, the same day as saying that she had not met with anyone from the Investigative Committee and that no one had questioned her.
On March 19, the same website quoted Perchikova as saying the head of the Pskov Oblast Investigative Committee, Pyotr Krupenya, had come to their home late the previous evening.
"He came at around 10 p.m.," Perchikova told Fontanka.ru. "Apparently it was because his employees had told the media that they had come to see us when they hadn't. He personally took my statement about the threats we have received."
The story began on December 14, when 12-year-old Tasya Perchikova -- reportedly without her mother's knowledge -- sent a message to Putin via the Kremlin website complaining about her mother's low salary as a nurse and asking for a garden tractor to help her mother manage their garden.
"I have a very good mother," Tasya wrote. "She works at the regional hospital in Sebezh. The salaries at the hospital are too small -- less than the poverty minimum -- so she has to work two shifts. And still my mother helps others as well."
It's a fairly common refrain within state-funded sectors of the Russian economy, including health care and education.
But Tasya added a personal twist.
"I really love my mother and I see how hard things are for her. Help us, please," she wrote. "Give my mother a gift -- a mini-tractor or a rototiller -- so that things would be easier for her and so she could get more out of the land. We have to look after her. We really need [a tractor]. We could have more garden beds and Mama wouldn't have to shovel so much, after her shifts, almost to complete collapse. I would be very grateful if you would call and I could tell you everything myself."
'Half The Country Lives Like That'
After RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on Tasya's letter to the president and her family's living conditions in the rural Pskov Oblast, people from around the country began sending them clothes, small sums of money, and other small gifts.
At the same time, although the Kremlin did not respond directly to Tasya's letter, it forwarded her request to local officials.
And that's when the family's troubles really started.
Some locals in their village of Tomsino were apparently unhappy with the family's depiction of their lives and its new windfall. Comments on social media accused the family of beggary and sponging.
"Half the country lives like that and no one complains or asks for anything," one anonymous commenter wrote. "Except for these snobs."
Last month the story took a dark turn when someone using a fake social-media account and posing as one of Tasya's friends tricked her or compelled her to send a nude photograph, which was soon distributed widely. Yelena Perchikova says she immediately began receiving phone calls from blocked numbers saying, "next time your daughter will be cut open from ear to ear."
Around the same time, employees at the hospital where Perchikova worked wrote a complaint to the management, saying she was "unable to cope with her duties" and "leaves filth after her shift." Perchikova was dismissed on March 13.
On March 17, local officials announced that the regional ombudswoman for children's rights, Natalia Sokolova, and Deputy Pskov Governor Vera Yemelyanova would lead a delegation of officials to Tomsino to look into the matter, including the possibility of opening a criminal case for distribution of child pornography.
"This commission could crucify me and take away my daughter," Yelena Perchikova told RFE/RL's Russian Service. She said she had been informed that the officials would be looking into the girl's living conditions.
On March 18, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on Pskov Oblast officials to deal with the situation "humanely."
Perchikova said she was considering moving back to Leningrad Oblast, where she came from originally.
She was able to buy a rototiller with the money that was sent to her, she said. But she may never use it in her Pskov Oblast garden