Monday, September 3, 2018

... And Then the FSB Came for the Handicapped

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 2 – In Putin’s Russia, the FSB is going after ever more Russians, especially those it thinks it can attack with impunity because the broader community will not be as inclined to support these targets. But fortunately, there are some good people who are standing up against this ugly trend.

            In Kaliningrad, the FSB has brought a case against Artur Smirnov for a four-year old post that the organs say denigrates women. Smirnov, who suffers from Asperger syndrome, does not even remember doing this. His mother has circulated a petition online, and 135,000 Russians have come to his defense (

            The FSB has been pursuing Smirnov for several years, leading to a radical deterioration of his condition, forcing his hospitalization for depression, and leading to his expulsion from the local university, Yuliya Paramonova of Radio Svoboda says. The organs have spent enormous time and money to go after someone they are transforming into a complete invalid.

            Smirnov’s incarceration in a psychiatric facility was a form of torture, Smirnov’s mother says. Not only was he not given the required medications needed for his condition, but doctors there only focused on the FSB charges rather than on any treatment at all. As a result, Smirnov came out much worse than he went in.

            Despite his earlier success in a business schools, Smirnov found himself under attack by the authorities at the local university; and he has been driven from that, forced to live at home and in fear for his life, his mother says.  Finally, after repeated interrogations and repressions, he has admitted his guilt and says he is an extremist, although he may not know what that means.

            He now faces a 300,000 ruble (4,000 US dollars) fine and incarceration of from two to five years. His mother says he is suffering terribly. She is trying to prevent things from getting worse, blocking him from reading the press or social media. But still he has fallen into depression and frequently has to be hospitalized, something that wasn’t true before.
            She adds that she is certain that the FSB can bring charges like this against anyone and that “today, invalids in Russia cannot feel themselves secure.” They can be brought up on trumped up charges and put away with the courts backing the organs rather than defending justice. That’s why she is circulating the petition.

            “I fear for my son,” she continues. “In Russia, teenagers have killed invalids because they take them for drug addicts. I don’t want that my son will go to the store and not return simply because some wild people will surround him and kill him.  If he lands in a camp, this could have fatal consequences for him. For any autistic individual, this is like death.”

            Paramonova says that Smirnova’s fears are not without foundation.  In 2017, 407 people were convicted of extremism. Ninety-six percent of them were sentenced for Internet postings. “Almost all were condemned for reposts, with only one in six condemned for their own publications.” 

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