Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 11.11.2017
Modern totalitarian regimes use modern methods of torture. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and now Putin’s Russia employ medical doctors to coerce political prisoners. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on 20 February 2014, the Putin regime has been using punitive psychiatry against the Ukrainian patriots and Crimean Tatars they kidnap and against the prisoners of war they capture.
Psychiatry is a science of mental health. Real psychiatrists promote good mental health and treat mental illness. Punitive psychiatry is a technique of torture. It is a weapon of domination used by totalitarian regimes to associate expression of political dissent with having a mental disorder. Persons who engage in punitive psychiatry on behalf of the Putin regime are not doctors but torturers, and are committing grave violations of human rights.
Aggressor Russia started to threaten or to use punitive psychiatry soon after it invaded Europe in Crimea and Donbas. In June 2014, Russian invasion troops captured Ukrainian officer Nadiya Savchenko in Luhansk region and spirited her across the international frontier into Russia. Brought up on bogus murder charges, her captors interrogated her under the guise of “conducting a forensic psychiatric examination.” World-wide publicity in the case led the Russians to abandon this approach of persecution and pursue other lines of attack. Nadiya Savchenko was released on 25 May 2016 in exchange for two Russian prisoners of war.
On 26 August 2016, Human Rights Watch raised the case of Ilmi Umerov in their online publication. Ilmi Umerov is a deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. Loyal to his people and loyal to Crimea, he is naturally loyal to Ukraine. Because he would not renounce his loyalty to Ukraine, the Russian invader-occupiers who are the de-facto authorities in Crimea had Ilmi Umerov involuntarily confined in a psychiatric hospital. Human Rights Watch noted the parallels between what Putin’s Russia was doing and what the Soviet Union did. It was “a shameful attempt to use psychiatry to silence [Umerov] and tarnish his reputation, a popular practice against dissidents in the Soviet Union.” Ilmi Umerov was released from captivity on 25 October 2017, along with Akhtem Chiygoz.
Russia is using both psychological and physical torture against political prisoner Stanyslav Klykh. Historian Stanyslav Klykh was tricked into travelling to Oryol, Russia, where he arrived on 7 August 2014. The Russian FSB kidnapped him there and charged him with terrorism offences – in a manner almost identical to what they would later do to Pavel Hryb in Homel, Belarus on 24 August 2017. Stanyslav Klykh has been held captive, tortured, given psychotropic drugs, and subjected to punitive psychiatry. His “mental disorder” – according to the perverted logic of the Putin regime – is that he is a Ukrainian patriot. After three years of torture at the hands of the Russians, Stanyslav Klykh is now in need of genuine medical care for physical and mental illness. His Russian captors deny him both.
In the Soviet Union there was the fakery of “scientific socialism” to back up punitive psychiatry. Supporting democracy or supporting Ukrainian independence were “irrational” because they were against the “rational” inevitability of true global communism. In the totalitarian world-view of the Bolsheviks, political dissent was irrational, and a sign of an irrational or diseased mind, and punitive psychiatry fit in this way as a tool of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But with Putin’s Russia and its aggression against Europe in Ukraine there is no foundation – even a fake and flimsy one – to punitive psychiatry. Putinism is not an ideology. Putinism is chaos. Therefore, punitive psychiatry in Putin’s Russia is simply an instrument of torture. It is used to extract confessions to impossible things. Savchenko was supposed to confess to murdering two journalists who were killed after she was captured. Umerov was supposed to confess that he was advocating violence against Russia by saying that Crimea should return peacefully to Ukraine. Klykh was supposed to confess that he was in Chechnya along with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and leader of the Right Sector political faction, Dmytro Yarosh. The fact that these things are untrue, impossible, and insane makes no difference to the Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine.
Russians use punitive psychiatry against Ukrainians because they fear and they hate the loyalty and love that Ukrainians have towards their home and native land. Russians will inflict punitive psychiatry on any Ukrainian patriot they can get their hands on. The darkest times of Soviet Russian occupation have returned to Ukraine with Putin’s invasion army in Crimea and Donbas. Without the restraint of ideology, punitive psychiatry in the hands of the Putin regime is a more vicious instrument of torture than it was in the hands of the Soviets.