Staunton, December 29 – A pro-Putin activist in Saratov says that he considers it his “civic duty” to call on officials to label a group that has helped those suffering from diabetes there for more than 30 years “a foreign agent” because he suspects it is receiving subsidies from foreign drug companies (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/12/27/75056-poschital-grazhdanskim-dolgom-podat-signal).
Many of those who have benefited from the group’s services have expressed outrage and the activist says that he is willing to withdraw his suit, although he has taken down the VKontakte post where he said that. But the wheels of the Russian justice system have begun to move and the group will be the subject of a hearing on January 15.
Larisa Saygina, the new president of the Saratov Regional Organization of Those Suffering from Diabetes, tells Radio Liberty that the problems her group now faces arose not from this latest action – she dismisses the activist as a puppet controlled by others – but earlier this year (svoboda.org/a/28944324.html
Officials don’t like the fact that the group complains too often about insulin shortages and other problems and see this action as a way of shutting the group up, Saygina says; but she adds that they won’t succeed because while the group has no money, it does have active supporters among the many in Saratov whose suffering is alleviated only by the actions of her organization.
The local authorities have driven them out of the rooms at the local polyclinic where they had received patients and given them advice, and now the group may be pushed into the streets because officials are unwilling to sign a rental agreement with them. At present, the group doesn’t even have enough money to pay for local telephone calls.
It has received help in the past from “the Russian representatives of foreign pharmacological companies” which have factories in Russia, some for more than 50 years. “All the medicines [the group uses] are produced at these factories and not brought in from abroad,” Saygina points out.
She also notes that the Russian health ministry currently uses the same companies her group does and no one seems to have any problems with that. If the group is declared a foreign agent, it will appeal; and those whom it has helped say they will not only testify on behalf of the group but go into the streets to protest if the group needs them to do so.