Use of psychiatry for political pressure is unacceptable!

We, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, hereby appeal to the international human rights community, as well as international and national professional associations of psychiatrists, about the ongoing practice whereby psychiatry is used for political purposes.

Earlier, on October 10, 2013, we made a statement about the growing frequency of such pressure on human rights advocates and civil activists on the territory of the former USSR. In 2012, human rights advocates reported 2 such cases. In 2013, at least 4 noticeable cases were reported in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. All 4 were widely publicized domestically and internationally.

In April 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled an important verdict in the Anatoliy Rudenko vs Ukraine case. During his pre-trial detention at the respective center in Ukraine (SIZO), Anatoliy was sent to forced psychiatric treatment. He spent almost a year there without any opportunity to appeal against this, or to have an independence examination of his health. The ECHR recognized this as the violation of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and noted that the applicant (Anatoliy Rudenko) was completely dependent on the authorities which decided to not hold an independent examination, thereby depriving him of any opportunity to prove his mental capability, as well as of the right to be present at court hearings or to defend himself from the charges against him.   

This verdict, coupled with wide international publicity of politically-motivated punitive psychiatry, was expected to restrict the use of psychiatry to further restriction of human rights of human rights advocates or civil activists under arrest, as well as in other cases where the authorities prefer their “opponents” to keep silent. However, this did not happen. Reports of such facts are still coming from different countries.

Two notorious cases where the Russian authorities applied psychiatry against Ukrainian citizens detained in Russia have been reported over the past few months alone. The situation is further aggravated by the ongoing armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and proactive participation of the abovementioned detained people in it in different roles. These two people were taken from the territory of Ukraine illegally and are kept on the territory of Russia illegally:

  • Activist Oleksiy Chirniy arrested in Crimea in May. He is currently in Moscow, at the psychiatric hospital of the Butyrka pre-trial detention center (SIZO) for unknown reasons and purposes
  • Pilot Nadiya Savchenko kidnapped in the area of the anti-terrorist operation by the terrorists of the “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” (DNR and LNR). She is currently in Vorohezh, and scheduled for forced psychological and psychiatric examination at the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow.  

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has already stated that Ukraine considers these people to be political prisoners. According to the Foreign Ministry, Russia is banning the Ukrainian consul to visit the citizens of Ukraine detained illegally, thereby ignoring international law.

We qualify the abovementioned facts of psychiatry used by the Russian authorities and aggravated by illegal detention of Ukrainian citizens on the territory of Russia as confirmation of the fact that politically-motivated psychiatry is being returned as regular practice. We therefore appeal to:

International and national professional association of psychiatrists -

  • To publicly assess the practice of using psychiatry for political purposes;
  • To initiate the establishment of the Institute of Independent Psychiatric Examination in order to develop recommendations and facilitate the adoption of laws on the national level to guarantee independent psychiatric examination in cases where the objectivity of actions on the national level is questionable;
  • To hold independent psychiatric examinations of Oleksiy Chirniy and Nadiya Savchenko and to provide qualified experts to do this.

Russian authorities -

  • To prevent violations of human rights listed in the ECHR’s verdict in the Anatoliy Rudenko vs Ukraine case on their territory;
  • To assist in the objective international psychiatric examination of Oleksiy Chirniy and Nadiya Savchenko;
  • To organize access of international, Ukrainian and Russian human rights advocates and Ukrainian diplomats to these individuals;
  • To include psychiatric facilities into the mandate of the Civil Monitoring Commissions;
  • To quit the practice of gag orders for political cases as a hindrance to the work of lawyers;
  • To stop criminal persecution as politically motivated ones of the Ukrainian citizens who have been detained illegally and to fulfill the demand of the Ukrainian party to transfer to it the following illegally detained individuals: Serhiy Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev, Oleksiy Chirniy, Yuriy Yatsenko, Nadiya Savchenko.

To the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other crueal, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment -

  • To pay attention to the abovementioned cases of psychiatry used against Ukrainian citizens on the Russian territory to pressure them and to take urgent measures within the framework of their mandates;

To international and national human rights organizations -

  • To pay attention to the growing frequency of punitive psychiatry on the post-Soviet territory and to include this issue on the agenda of their monitoring and advocacy campaigns;
  • To increase cooperation with professional association of psychiatrists in order to prevent the spread of the practice to use psychiatry for political purposes, and to guarantee the individual’s rights in the segment of psychiatry to the highest possible extent.



Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)

KRF Public Alternative (Ukraine)

Human Rights Movement "Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan"

Promo-LEX Assosiatoion Moldova

Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

Armenia Helsinki Committee

Analytical Centre for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultation (Georgia)

Centre for Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)

Helsinki Committee of Armenia

Belorussian Helsinki Committee

Moscow Helsinki Group

Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)



Additional information:

Oleksiy Chirniy was detained in May 2014 along with the well-known Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov and activists Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksandr Kolchenko. Later, they were all taken to the Russian territory where they are still in detention and accused of terrorist activity. The Russian side, against their will, has enforced Russian citizenship on these individuals and is putting constant moral and psychological pressure on them.

Oleksiy Chirniy is currently at the psychiatric hospital of the Butyrka SIZO in Moscow. The grounds for keeping him there are unknown. Open Dialogue, a Polish foundation, enquired the Ministry of Health Care of Russia on this on July 14, 2014 (inquiry No 30434485). The response was that, in accordance with Article 13 of the Federal Law On the Basic Principles of Health Care for the Citizens of the Russian Federation No 323-Ф3 dated November 21, 2011, the enquired information is secret under the patient-doctor confidentiality. However, Oleksiy Chirniy is a citizen of Ukraine, since he has rejected Russian citizenship. Therefore, he is not subject to this Article. The Russian side denies the fact that Oleksiy Chirniy is a Ukrainian citizen.

In her interview for Hromadske on August 12, 2014, Liudmyla Kozlovska, Director of the Open Dialogue, a Polish foundation, drew parallels with situations which the Open Dialogue representatives faced in Kazakhstan when she described Oleksiy’s state and commented on the fact that he has signed charges against himself. Liudmyla Kozlovska asserted that Oleksiy Chirniy has most likely been put under the influence of psychotropic drugs and has therefore signed all charges against himself.


Pilot Nadiya Savchenko took part in the anti-terrorist operation on the Ukrainian side as a volunteer. She participated in the fighting near Metalist village, Luhansk Oblast; was eventually captured by the militants of the Zaria battalion at night of June 18-19, 2014. On July 8, news surfaced that Nadiya was detained in a singular cell at the investigation isolator in Voronezh, Russia. She was allegedly taken to Russia as a result of a deal between the militants and Russian secret services. According to Savchenko herself, she was taken from the territory of Ukraine by force, with a bag on her head and in handcuffs; then she was kidnapped on the Russian territory and transferred to “individuals wearing camouflage uniforms.”

On July 9, Vladimir Markin, Representative of the Russian Investigation Committee, reported that the Department for investigation of crimes related to the use of forbidden substances and warfare of the Russian Investigation Committee charged Nadiya Savchenko with assistance in the murder of Igor Korneliuk and Anton Voloshyn, two journalists of the All-Russian TV and Radio Company. According to investigators, she determined the location of the group of journalists as part of the Aydar battalion and transferred them to Ukrainian sylovyky (security officials). These details were later used in the mortar shelling that killed the journalists.

According to the verdict of the Novousmansky District Court in Vorohezh Oblast, Nadiya was detained through August 30. Savchenko’s lawyers appealed against this verdict. On July 10, the Voronezh Oblast Court considered this appeal and rejected it, leaving the original verdict on Savchenko’s detention unchanged.

Meanwhile, the oblast court recognized that Savchenko was not handed copies of the protocol and procedure documents in Ukrainian, her native language. As a result, the documents were returned to the district court to correct the errors. Subsequently, Nadiya Savchenko was handed procedure documents on her case in Ukrainian on July 15.

No press was allowed to the trial. During the trial, Savchenko was held at the Voronezh SIZO with which video connection was installed from the courtroom. Ukrainian diplomat was not admitted to the courtroom.

On August 27, within the framework of the regular court hearing, the court ruled that Nadiya Savchenko should pass a comprehensive psychological and psychiatric examination at the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow according to the Resolution on the Prescription of the Hospital Comprehensive Psychological and Psychiatric Forensic Examination dated August 18, 2014. The court ruling says: “Taking into account the abovementioned and the graveness of the actions committed by Savchenko N.V., the unmotivated cruelty applied against the victims, a necessity has arisen to have the accused individual take a hospital comprehensive psychological and psychiatric examination.” This is a serious violation of presumption of innocence since Nadiya Savchenko’s guilt has not been proven, while the ruling describes the actions she is accused of as a completed and accomplished fact.   

Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyers have filed an appeal against the ruling to send her to psychiatric examination. They have also filed an appeal to the ECHR.