war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Nadiya Savchenko to face forced Serbsky Institute ’psychiatric examination’

Halya Coynash

Russian investigators have confirmed that, as feared, Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian officer captured by Kremlin-backed militants and now in Russian detention, is to be subjected to a so-called psychiatric assessment at the notorious Serbsky Institute in Moscow. 

The announcement came a few hours after the lawyers representing Savchenko reported that she had been moved from the Voronezh SIZO or pretrial detention centre where she has been held since late June.  The lawyers learned on Wednesday morning that Savchenko had been moved on Monday and demanded official notification from the investigators about her current whereabouts.

Last week a Voronezh court once again refused to release Savchenko on bail. This came shortly after a press briefing on Sept 11 by Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich. He claimed that the Minsk protocol agreeing the release of prisoners of war did not apply to Savchenko.

It was learned at the end of August that Savchenko was to be forced to undergo a so-called psychiatric examination at the notorious Serbski Institute in Moscow. 

Savchenko condemned this ‘examination’ as illegal.  A statement was made public by her lawyer Mark Feygin in which she says that she “was illegally abducted from Ukraine, unlawfully brought to the Russian Federation and is being held here illegally” She said that she would be refusing to speak with the clinic staff; to give any kind of testimony; to answer any questions in writing or verbally; to fill in any forms or undergo any tests.

The Serbsky Institute gained notoriety in Soviet times for its application of punitive psychiatry and there are very legitimate concerns regarding the possible methods which could be used against the Ukrainian officer.  These concerns were set out in an appeal signed by a number of Ukrainian psychiatrists, including Semyon Gluzman, a victim of Soviet punitive psychiatry.

Nadiya Savchenko was taken prisoner in the Luhansk oblast by militants from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic on June 17 or 18.  Two days later a video appeared of her being interrogated by the militants. She demonstrated courage during the interrogation and refused to provide the information the militants demanded.

It then transpired that she was being held in a Russian SIZO.  She was first remanded in custody by a Voronezh court on July 2, then on July 9 Russia’s Investigative Committee announced  that she was being charged with alleged  “complicity in the group killing of two or more people carrying out official activities in a publicly hazardous manner for motives of political hatred”.

The investigators claimed that in June, as a member of the Aidar Battalion, Savchenko found out the whereabouts of a group of TV Rossiya journalists and other civilians outside Luhansk, and passed these to fighters who carried out a mortar attack which killed TV Rossiya employees Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.

They also asserted that Savchenko had crossed the Russian border, without any documents, pretending to be a refugee.  They alleged that she had been initially detained to establish her identity.

This story is totally denied by Savchenko who says she was forcibly taken across the border with a bag over her head and in handcuffs.   The Russian investigators’ version is also wildly implausible.  More details about the holes in the case, and the use of Russian TV to try to conceal them here.

The defence have provided compelling evidence showing that Savchenko had been captured before the Russian journalists were killed. Neither this, nor the discrepancies in the investigators’ story has had any impact on the courts and it seems likely that they are simply handing down the rulings demanded of them.  The political nature of the detention and court proceedings is made abundantly clear by the court order from July 3 (and the investigators’ documents).  This order refers to the Donbas region of Ukraine as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics

Nadiya Savchenko was recently registered in Ukraine as the first candidate in Yulia Tymoshenko’s list for the coming parliamentary elections.  The move has seemingly been taken with Savchenko’s concent, and has led to protest from Russian MPs.

Russia is presently holding six Ukrainian nationals in custody on very suspicious grounds, with five of them having been taken by force to Russia.

Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirny are all from the Crimea and all actively opposed Russia’s annexation of their homeland.  They were arrested at different times in May and after interrogation allegedly with the use of torture were taken to Moscow where they are facing positively far-fetched ‘terrorist’ charges (more details here). 

 Yury Yatsenko, a final year law student from Lviv has been in custody in the Kursk oblast since May.  He was first held with another Ukrainian, Bohdan Yarychevsky, under a deportation order that the authorities were in no hurry to carry out.  He was then in August formally remanded on highly dubious charges of ‘smuggling explosives’ (more details here).

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