United Civil Front Activist Larisa Arap Held

Larisa Arap is a writer and an activist for the United Civil Front, the opposition group founded and chaired by Garry Kasparov in 2005. The UCF has been an integral force in the Other Russia since its inception and Larisa Arap has been active in our activities in Murmansk and elsewhere. Ms. Arap also wrote an article detailing abuses in children’s mental health facilities, including the use of electroshock. As a consequence, she has been abducted by the authorities in Murmansk at a psychiatric clinic. She was held from July 5 to July 18 with no medical or legal information being given out by authorities. Only later did a court say she was “a danger to herself and others” — the classic formulation. She is being held and medicated against her will, although the hospital will not confirm her presence there.

UPDATE JULY 30: Ms. Arap’s daughter Taisiya has been able to visit her mother in the hospital. She requested to see the diagnosis of her mother and was refused by doctors citing privileged information. The photo on the right was taken by her daughter with her cell phone at the clinic where her mother is being held. We will be following Ms. Arap’s story closely. [We understand that the American consul from St. Petersburg is heading to Murmansk to inquire.]

The use of psychiatric detention as a weapon of repression was quite popular in the days of the USSR. Dissidents regularly disappeared into prisons and hospitals under charges of mental instability. This time the interests are likely of a baser nature, as Kasparov puts it: “It could happen if you attack the interests of the local Gazprom, the local military base, the local medical mafia. Attacking the interests of local bureaucrats is a terrible risk, because they don’t stop at anything to get their own back.” This is not the first such incident of the Putin era and it is no surprise to see the revival of the old Soviet methods.

As is often the case after such incidents hit the news, Russian opposition websites have been attacked and made unavailable by massive DDOS assault. As of this writing, namarsh.ru and kasparov.ru are under attack.