Thursday, September 4, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Confines Ukrainian Officer in Notorious Serbsky Institute

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 4 – In an action that recalls some of the worst behavior of Brezhnev’s times, the current Russian government has sent a Ukrainian officer it seized and illegally transferred to Russia for “forensic psychiatric evaluation” at Moscow’s Serbsky Institute where Soviet-era dissidents were infamously treated for “sluggish schizophrenia.”


            That has prompted a group of Ukrainian psychiatrists to issue an appeal to the international psychiatric community to come to her defense, the same tactic human rights activists used 40 years ago when the Soviet authorities incarcerated and maltreated dissidents like Petr Grigorenko, who spoke out on behalf of the Crimean Tatars


                Below is the text of their appeal:


“The history with the Ukrainian air force officer Nadiya Savchenko has acquired a psychiatric aspect. Detained by Russian secret services on the territory of Ukraine, she was illegally transferred to Russia and by a decision of a Russian court sent to the Serbsky Institute (currently the Federal State-budget Institution «State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry named after Serbsky» of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation) to undergo a forensic psychiatric evaluation.


“As an air force pilot on duty and an officer of the Ukrainian army, she regularly underwent medical check-ups, among them psychiatric ones. The mental health of Ms. Savchenko was before never subject to any doubt. This is confirmed both by relatives and fellow officers. On basis of this we can assume that the motive to send the Ukrainian officer Nadiya Savchenko for psychiatric examination is her courageous behavior in a Russian court.


“We, Ukrainian psychiatrists, remember the recent history of declaring healthy people mentally ill behind the walls of the Serbski Institute in Moscow. We also know about new cases of political abuse of psychiatry in the Russia of today. The authoritarian political regime in Russia is able to use the «psychiatric cover up» also in the case of Nadiya Savchenko.


“We urgently ask you to pay attention to this case. And to put pressure, both personally and within the framework of the work of national psychiatric associations, on the Russian authorities, who continue the practice of psychiatric repression in their country.


“We, psychiatrists, have the obligation to terminate this practice. Otherwise, to the list of victims of abuse of psychiatry for political purposes who were “determined” mentally ill in the Serbski Institute in the USSR (Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Valeriya Novodvorskaya, Anna Mikhailenko, Vladimir Bukovsky, Pyotr Grigorenko, Leonid Plyushch and hundreds of other dissidents) the name of Nadezhda Savchenko can be added” (


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