Sentenced to die in agony, for writing about Russia’s war crimes against Ukraine
Igor Baryshnikov is one of the first Russians to have received long terms of imprisonment for telling the truth about Russia’s war crimes in Bucha, Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities. He was prevented from receiving potentially life-saving medical treatment even before his ‘conviction’ and 7.5-year sentence; and is now being denied the healthcare which might at least ease his suffering in a Russian prison colony.
Baryshnikov’s lawyers that there has been a grave deterioration in his state of health. The recognized political prisoner, who will be turning 65 on 20 January 2024, has serious problems with circulation, is suffering pain and bladder discomfort and has trouble standing, sitting or lying down. He is in immediate danger of developing sepsis, and urgently needs an operation to remove a tumour, as well as proper examination and treatment in hospital. They say that the prison staff are not providing any medical care.
Baryshnikov is an engineer by profession but is reported to have been a pensioner at the time of his arrest in May 2022, possibly because of his health issues. He was also the sole carer for his bedbound mother, who was 97, and died very soon after her son was taken into custody. Baryshnikov is from Sovietsk in Kaliningrad region and had long been subjected to detentions and administrative prosecution for peacefully expressing his civic position.
The criminal charges first laid in May 2022 were under Article 207.3 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code. This is the worst of four draconian new charges rushed into Russian legislation within ten days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It punishes for what is claimed to be knowingly false information about Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine (the euphemism ‘special military operation’ is used). In June that year, a second charge was laid under Article 207.3 § 2. This punishes for the same actions but claims that they were motivated by ‘political enmity’. The two charges were subsequently merged into one case.
He was not immediately remanded in custody but was forced to sign an undertaking not to leave his area. A chronic medical condition intensified following the events in May and he was found to have a tumour, with the doctors suspecting prostate cancer. Despite the clear and urgent need for an operation to remove the tumour, the court refused the defence’s application for him to be allowed to travel to St Petersburg for an operation which could not be carried out in his region.
His doctor gave testimony during the trial, warning that Baryshnikov could die if imprisoned. This was, typically, ignored, and on 22 June 2023, Baryshnikov was sentenced to seven and a half years. He was immediately taken into custody and was not even allowed to attend the funeral of his mother who died soon after being placed in ‘the care’ of Russia’s social services.
The charges against Igor Baryshnikov and, therefore, this effective death sentence, were over Facebook posts in March and April 2022 about Russia’s crimes in Ukraine. In recognizing Baryshnikov as a political prisoner, listed the posts which were about:
the shelling by Russian forces of the maternity hospital in Mariupol on 9 March 2022;
the rape by Russian soldiers of a Ukrainian woman from Kyiv oblast on 30 March 2022;
the total destruction of Chernihiv by Russian forces on 1 April 2022;
the looting, and theft of underwear, by Russian soldiers on 2 April 2022;
the bloodshed and crimes committed against civilians in Bucha (there were several posts from 4 April 2022);
genocide of the Ukrainian population (on 7 April 2022);
crimes by representative of the Russian regime and their violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including in occupied Crimea and Donbas (from 8 April 2022);
and several other war crimes.
Many of the posts contained reposts of video material and other sources. There is ample evidence, including that gathered by the International Criminal Court, of all of the types of crimes listed above, and it is most unlikely that the posts contained false information. They simply clashed with the lies and false narrative pushed by Russia’s defence ministry, with that quite sufficient to incur charges under Article 207.3 or three other ‘offences’, introduced into legislation on 4 March 2022.
Igor Baryshnikov should not, even according to Russian legislation, be in custody because of his state of health. His continued imprisonment under such circumstances, and especially given the failure to provide healthcare, is a flagrant violation of his right to life, as well as to the prohibition of torture.