Against the background of the war in Ukraine, the Russian authorities began to more often use a type of punishment common in the USSR against activists and citizens with an anti-war position – forced treatment by a psychiatrist. The diagnosis, which can be followed by outpatient treatment or placement in a psychiatric hospital, is given to those accused of spreading “fake” news about the war, trying to set fire to military districts or enlisting in Ukraine’s armed forces. Lawyers report harassment and humiliation experienced by their clients, writes The Moscow Times.
Accused of “disinformation” about the Russian army, the resident of St. Petersburg Victoria Petrova was “promised” to be beaten upon her arrival at the psycho-neurological dispensary “for welcome”. Thus, in her words, she was made to understand that “in the hospital she is no longer a person.” Petrova’s lawyer Anastasia Pilipenko told the publication about this, specifying that he was doing this at the request of his client.
“They tied her hands and feet to the bed and injected her with drugs, due to which she was practically unable to speak and therefore – complain for two days. While Vika was tied up, her clothes were thrown over her face. Apparently just for the pleasure of watching her helplessness,” says Pilipenko.
Petrova was forced to undress for a “physical examination” in the presence of male officers. “When she asked to at least be allowed to change her sanitary pad first because her period had started and the blood was already on her legs, everyone laughed and made fun of her – younger and older men, women in their forties about sixty,” says the lawyer.
Petrova became accused in a case of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army in May 2022. The reason was a post on a social network that talked about the losses of the parties in the war. Attached to the post were videos from the YouTube channels of Ukrainian President Zelensky, politician Oleksiy Arestovich and journalist Dmitry Gordon.
In the winter of 2023, Petrova’s cellmates complained to the authorities of the investigative detention center that she was “continuing anti-war propaganda.” The court ordered a psychiatric examination, as a result of which it declared that she “could not and cannot be aware of her actions and control them.” On October 24, the court decided that Petrova should be transferred from pre-trial detention to a psychiatric hospital.
As Petrova’s lawyer notes, her client is not a political activist.
“The only unusual thing about Vika’s case is her ordinariness. She is just like us. Not an activist, not a journalist, not the voice of a generation,” says Pilipenko.
Petrova’s case is not the first in which a court has declared insane citizens who opposed the war:
In October, the Second Western District Military Court in Moscow ordered compulsory psychiatric treatment for Nizhny Novgorod resident Alexei Onoshkin. He was accused of spreading “fake news” about the Russian military and calling for terrorism. The basis for the accusations were Onoshkin’s publications and comments in “V Kontakte”.
In September, the Balashov District Court of the Saratov Region sent the deputy from the village of Khopersky, Oleg Nepein, for compulsory treatment in a psychiatric hospital. He was tried for messages in a regional chat dedicated to the killings of civilians in Bucha and Mariupol.
In August, the court in Mytishti sentenced environmental activist and animal rights activist Alexander Bakhtin to six years in prison and forced psychiatric treatment. The reason for three criminal cases for military “falsifications” was three publications in “V Kontakte” about the deaths of civilians in Ukraine.
In July, a court in the Moscow Region found Dmitry Lyamin guilty of committing a terrorist act: he threw a bottle with an inflammable mixture into the building of the military service. Lyamin was sentenced to eight years in prison with compulsory psychiatric treatment at the place of serving the sentence.
In May, Vladikavkaz resident Teona Kelehsaeva received a fine of 100,000 rubles and forced outpatient treatment by a psychiatrist. The court saw repeated discrediting of the Russian military in her posts on V Kontakte and Instagram.
In April, Sergey Kolin, a resident of the Tver region, was declared insane and sent to compulsory treatment. The court found that Colin, in correspondence with “unidentified persons”, agreed to join the Legion “Freedom of Russia” and go to war. The case file states that in his Telegram channel, Kolin “expresses support for the Ukrainian side”, “expresses hostility towards Russian citizens” and “negative attitude towards the leadership of the Russian Federation and the authorities”.
Psychiatric examinations have been ordered for the artist Sasha Skochilenko and the journalist Maria Ponomarenko, who were also accused of “forgeries” for the Russian army. Both were eventually found sane. Skochilenko received seven years in prison, Ponomarenko – six years.
The Russian authorities have decided to revive the Soviet practice of total control over the contacts of the scientific community with foreign countries, reports The Moscow Times.
The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation demanded that the management of institutes and universities provide lists of participants in all international scientific events for 2023. A letter with the corresponding requirement was sent to the universities on November 9, writes the telegram channel “We can explain”, referring to the document.
By Dec. 22, universities must complete and submit data on several forms at once, similar to the “foreign agent” reports filed with the Department of Justice. These forms contain, among other things, “detailed information about the contingent of participants”, the surnames, first names and patronymics of those gathered, their status, as well as which country their interlocutors represent.
Reporting of international events has taken place before, but it was not as thorough, a source from the Ministry of Education and Culture confirmed the introduction of a new approach. “I’ve dealt with similar problems in the past, but this is the first time I’ve encountered lists of names on such a large scale. I am sure that there will be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people on these lists – teachers, students, experts. All the speakers should definitely be on the list,” the interlocutor noted.
According to him, this can be explained by spy mania. Subsequently, the lists submitted to the MES can be used to check for “inappropriate contacts” as well as to introduce travel restrictions, the source stressed.
In addition, lists can be useful for recruiting new agents from the scientific community into intelligence services. “This is an eternal classic of Soviet practice, when people are sent abroad for illegal work undercover even while they are students or immediately after,” concludes the interlocutor.
Over the past five years, at least 14 scientists working at leading technical universities and design bureaus have been arrested in Russia on charges of treason. In the last year alone, three prominent scientists from the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences ended up behind bars.
The institute’s officials then published an open letter to the authorities, in which they admitted that they did not understand “how to continue to do their work”. “We see that any article or report can lead to accusations of treason,” they stressed.
The scientists also paid attention to how the created atmosphere in the country affects young scientists. “Already the best students are refusing to work for us, and our best young employees are leaving science. A number of scientific fields are simply closed because employees are afraid to engage in such research,” the scientists note.