Moral Low Ground


Russia: Putin Critic Mikhail Kosenko Sentenced to Psychiatric Imprisonment

Mikhail Kosenko (Courtesy photo)

Mikhail Kosenko (Courtesy photo)

A Russian court has ordered a critic of President Vladimir Putin imprisoned in a psychiatric ward, prompting critics to accuse authorities of regressing into practices common during the Soviet era.

BBC reports 38-year-old Mikhail Kosenko has been committed to a psychiatric facility on court orders after being arrested along with more than 400 other protesters at an anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow last May 6.

Kosenko was accused of assaulting police officer Alexander Kazmin during the Bolotnaya Square demonstration, although Kazmin testified at Kosenko’s trial that he could not positively identify his assailant and that he did not want Kosenko to be punished for a crime he did not commit. Other witnesses also offered exculpatory evidence.

The Zamoskvoretski District Court in Moscow ruled that Kosenko, who suffered a brain injury after being brutally beaten by fellow Red Army cadets more than 20 years ago and who was diagnosed with mild schizophrenia in 2001, was not responsible for his own actions due to his mental illness.

“A conclusion by expert psychiatrists says he is a danger to society and therefore should be isolated in a psychiatric facility,” Kosenko’s attorney, Valery Shukhardin, told AFP.

But according to a statement by the international rights group Human Rights Watch, he “regularly and willingly took his medication and never showed aggression.”

The international human rights group Amnesty International called Kosenko’s psychiatric detention an “abhorrent return to the Soviet-era practices used to silence dissent.” Indeed, Soviet authorities often used psychiatric imprisonment against citizens who advocated for human rights, democratization, emigration, religious freedom and, in the case of Soviet citizens from non-Russian republics, national self-determination.

While politically-motivated psychiatric imprisonment is not a widespread practice in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, international human rights observers are concerned about his regime’s increasingly authoritarian rule. Freedom of assembly, association and expression have been significantly curtailed, LGBT Russians face severe repression, as do vocal critics of the regime.

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