Russia conceals diagnosis after effectively torturing abducted civic journalist for over six months
The Russian penal service to provide information about the diagnosis (if any) made in the case of political prisoner Iryna Danilovych. The 43-year-old Ukrainian nurse, civic journalist and human rights defender is facing a seven-year sentence on absurd charges, and was recently forced to resort to a hunger strike because the prison staff were refusing to provide any medical treatment for an excruciating ear inflammation. Iryna only ended her dry hunger strike when her captors promised to place her in a civilian hospital, however, according to her father, the promise was not kept.
Olga Mazurova, a Russian doctor and civic activist, sent a formal request for information about the diagnosis. In a letter signed by Vadym Bulgakov, head of the occupation Penal Service for Crimea, she was told only that Danilovych “is under the dynamic observation of staff from Medical Unit No. 1”. The letter goes on to excuse the refusal to provide information on the entirely formal pretext that Iryna’s letter providing authorization for Mazurova to receive the diagnosis did not provide Mazurova’s full name.
According to Bronislav Danilovich, a different excuse for refusing to provide information about his daughter’s condition was given by officials at the SIZO. Both SIZO Head Viktor Kharchenko and the head of the medical service whom he approached claimed that Iryna had not permitted disclosure of the details. The contrary is true and Iryna’s father recalls how, at the end of his last meeting with his daughter, she said she was ready to hang a sign over her head saying that she gives permission for her medical information to be passed on.
Bronislav Danilovych is under no illusion about the real reason for such secrecy. As he explained to Crimean Solidarity, he is certain that Iryna was not properly examined, and that she risks becoming an invalid because of the failure to provide her with the necessary medical care. She has constant pain and noise in her ear, as though on a turbojet. All of this is making it much harder to even read the material for the appeal hearing, and if she just turns her head, she suffers agonizing pain. Bronislav Danilovych stresses that his daughter has been in this condition for over six months, with ‘judge’ Natalia Kulinskaya from the occupation ‘Feodosia municipal court’ also refusing to take any proper measures. Kulinskaya ignored the manifestly fabricated nature of the charges, as well as glaring irregularities and violations of Iryna’s rights when, on 28 December 2022, she sentenced Iryna to seven years’ imprisonment. She then unwarrantedly ended the period during which Danilovich could read through the file and prepare for the appeal hearing, despite the clear difficulty that Danilovych was experiencing because of her ear infection.
That violation was effectively acknowledged by the occupation ‘High Court in Crimea’ when, on 2 May 2023, that the case be sent back to the ‘first instance court’ to rectify mistakes, and specifically the failure to allow Danilovich enough time to acquaint herself with the case material.
As a civic journalist and activist, Iryna Danilovich wrote for Crimean human rights initiatives following cases of political persecution. She also headed the Crimean branch of the Alliance of Doctors trade union and had taken part in attempts to obtain the promised, yet never provided, pandemic-linked supplementary payments for medical workers. Despite understanding that she was likely to face reprisals, she spoke publicly about the lies that the occupation authorities were telling about the real number of covid patients. All of this made her acutely vulnerable in Crimea under Russian occupation.
Danilovych was essentially abducted by the FSB as she waited for a bus home from a night shift in the morning of 29 April 2022. She was held incommunicado for over a week, despite constant efforts by her lawyer to find out her whereabouts and speak with her.
She has described the torture she endured during this period when the FSB used her total isolation to try to break her into ‘confessing’ to non-existent contacts with foreign organizations and ‘state treason’. When all such methods failed, they decided to claim to have ‘found’ explosives in her glasses case (under Article 222.1 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code).
The names of the FSB officers implicated in her abduction and torture are known. Yury Chevalkov; Oleg Savchenko; Sergei Suvorov; and Ruslan Narimanov) were convinced that they could abduct and torture Danilovych, and then concoct wildly implausible charges against her with total impunity, and thus far they have been right. ‘Prosecutors’ Dmitry Liashchenko (and Yulia Matveyeva demanded a 7-year sentence and 60 thousand rouble fine and ‘judge’ Natalia obliged, with the only change being a small reduction in the fine. Kulinskaya can have been in no doubt about the absurdity of the charges as she removed the part in the indictment about obtaining the explosives as the FSB had not even bothered to explain how Danilovich was supposed to have obtained them, yet still provided the sentence demanded by the prosecution.