The fate of the "Bolotnaya 17" is a case study in the Kremlin's intensifying crackdown against dissent.
MOSCOW -- If Russian investigators have their way, Mikhail Kosenko could soon be locked up in a psychiatric clinic. Russia's Investigative Committee on October 15 announced it had completed its probe into Kosenko and asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to refer him to a mental health institution for compulsory treatment.
Kosenko and 16 other Russians are accused of instigating "mass disorders" and assaulting police officials during a May 6 rally in Moscow. One defendant has already been charged after pleading guilty, and investigators say they are preparing to formally bring charges against the others. Lawyers and rights groups are stunned by the severity of the charges against the protesters, some of whom face up to 10 years in jail. The case against Kostenko, who suffers from a psychiatric disorder after a trauma sustained during his military service, has sparked particular outrage.
Natalya Taubina heads the Public Verdict Foundation, a nongovernmental organization whose lawyers are defending Kosenko. She says the young man is not a danger to society as claimed by investigators and has no need to be interned in a psychiatric hospital. "He has been an outpatient under supervision for about 10 years. He has never needed hospital treatment," Taubina says. "He regularly took his medication and saw the doctor every two weeks. And that was enough." Taubina says Kosenko was denied proper medical care during the three months he spent in pretrial detention. Moreover, lawyers say the video footage allegedly incriminating him actually shows a group of people assaulting police while Kostenko stands by. Taubina says her foundation has asked for a second psychiatric evaluation and is considering filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, based in the French city of Strasbourg.