Russia recognizes only punitive psychiatry while driving tortured Ukrainian political prisoner insane
While increasingly using punitive psychiatry as a weapon in occupied Crimea against Ukrainians persecuted for their views or faith, Russia is continuing to drive at the very least one tortured Ukrainian political prisoner insane. It is refusing to provide the independent psychiatric assessment which Stanislav Klykh urgently needs and is now sending him to Chelyabinsk, in the very far east of Russia. The reason is as brutally obvious as Klykh’s innocence of all charges.
The news that Klykh had already been moved from the prison in Chechnya only came on Jan 10, although the gruelling journey, with no contact with the outside world for at least three weeks, began for him three days earlier. On Dec 28, 2016, Chechnya’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal against Klykh’s second sentence. Given the very real concerns about Klykh’s condition, it is especially disturbing that his lawyer’s application for a psychiatric assessment was turned down, as well as the request for access to the recording of the court hearing where Klykh allegedly ‘insulted’ the prosecutor, over which he was charged. The recording would demonstrate the real causes of Klykh’s behaviour, as would a proper psychiatric assessment. Russia and all those implicated in this case have a lot to hide.
Klykh, a Kyiv historian, now 43, was seized from a hotel in the Oryol region of Russia in August 2014. He had gone there to meet a woman friend, and was instead held totally incommunicado for 10 months during which he was tortured and filled with psychotropic drugs to extract ‘confessions’ to heinous crimes that never happened.
Both he and Mykola Karpyuk, who had been subjected to similar treatment from March 2014, retracted all testimony as soon as they were finally allowed access to a lawyer (in Karpyuk’s case after a year and a half, in Klykh’s after ‘only’ 10 months).
Russia claimed that Klykh and 53-year-old Karpyuk had taken part in fighting in Chechnya 20 years earlier, and that during battles in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995 they had killed a number of Russian soldiers.
The charges were quite incredibly cynical given the huge number of Russian military servicemen and mercenaries being sent to Ukraine to fight and kill Ukrainian soldiers, but there was much more.
The ‘case’ was based entirely on their retracted ‘confessions’, backed by provably wrong testimony provided by a Ukrainian national Oleksandr Malofeyev already serving a 23-year sentence and directly dependent on the Russian prison authorities for life-saving medication.
The men’s scars from the torture they were subjected to are still visible and there are medical documents in Klykh’s case which provide additional confirmation.
Neither man had ever set foot in Chechnya before, and there were witnesses, as well as documentary evidence in Klykh’s case, proving that they were in Ukraine during the time in question.
It gets even worse. The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has closely followed Russia’s wars in Chechnya and was therefore well-placed to assess the prosecution’s case. In a four-part analysis, it demolished the entire indictment, demonstrating, for example, that the indictment contained fictitious crimes, and that of the 30 Russian soldiers who really did die, 18 had been killed in another place altogether, and a further eleven were not killed by gunfire, as the prosecution claimed. Only one man had died, as per the prosecution’s story, of gunfire, but not from the type of gun that the investigators claim was used.
Memorial accused the prosecution of deliberately leaving in accounts of horrific crimes that had never happened to influence the jury. There could also be no doubts about the methods used to extract insane ‘confessions’ in which the men ‘admitted’ to having committed such crimes together with the then Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and other prominent Ukrainian politicians. This deranged nonsense had been repeated by, among others, the head of the Russian Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin.
Memorial HRC declared Klykh and Karpyuk political prisoners on Feb 17, 2016, calling their trial part of Moscow’s unrelenting anti-Ukrainian campaign. A Memorial representative also appeared as witness in the trial. .
Convictions had, however, been commissioned and they were provided. Despite all of the above, on May 26, the court in Grozny, Chechnya under Judge on May Vakhit Ismailov sentenced Karpyuk to 22.5 years, Klykh to 20 years. The appeals were rejected.
Klykh’s lawyer Marina Dubrovina had expressed concern about Klykh psychological state very early on. In January 2016, his behaviour in court was so disturbed, that the hearing was adjourned and a psychiatric assessment ordered. The so-called ‘psychiatrists’ found nothing wrong, after which Ismailov initiated new criminal proceedings against Klykh for supposedly ‘insulting the prosecutor’. He was convicted and sentenced to 1 more month’s imprisonment. Karpyuk has already been moved from the remand prison where the two men were held, and Klykh will soon also be sent to a prison, where the conditions and his total isolation are likely to destroy him.
Russia’s denial of the obvious need for medical intervention now clashes with its insistence that Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov and other Crimean Muslims be hospitalized against their will for so-called ‘psychiatric assessments’. Since all are facing persecution for their views or faith, it is no surprise that such ‘assessment’ appears to consist solely of being questioned about their opinions.
One Russian at least – Alexei Moroshkin – is also being forcibly held in a psychiatric clinic because of his views. He was recently found to be a danger to society, essentially because he had refused to reject Memorial’s recognition of him as a political prisoner. It is perhaps no coincidence that Moroshkin’s troubles began over his protests against Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine.
It is surely time for international psychiatry associations to react in defence both of their profession and of Russia’s victims of punitive psychiatry.