Sunday, May 26, 2024

Number of Political Prisoners Forced to Undergo Psychiatric Treatment has Risen by Five Times Since Start of Putin’s Expanded War in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – One of the most noxious features of the Brezhnev era is rapidly being reborn in Putin’s Russia: political prisoners are increasingly being forced to undergo psychiatric treatment, with the number of such victims having increased by five times between 2021 and 2023, Andrey Zatirko of Agentsvo says.

            Drawing on the work of OVD-Info, Memorial and First Department, the journalist says that in the last 18 months a minimum of 33 political prisoners have been subject to punitive psychiatry, with the numbers having rapidly risen and set to rise still further this year (

            Prior to the launch of Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine, the number of such cases was relatively small, averaging three per year between 2013 and 2020, Zatirko says; but with the war and the explosion of cases involving anti-war protesters, forced incarceration in psychiatric prisons has gone up dramatically.

            As horrific as this practice is, Aleksey Makarov of Memorial says, it has not yet reached the dimensions it did in Soviet times. “In the mid-1970s,” he notes, “approximately every sixth individual condemned for anti-Soviet agitation or the dissemination of intentionally slanderous statements was confined” in a psychiatric prison hospital.

            Today, the percentage of such confinements is still much lower and so far most of those forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation and treatment are being held in psychiatric hospitals rather than psychiatric prisons, an arrangement the authorities could easily change if they decided to take more radical steps. 

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