Journalist Maria Ponomarenko, who is currently under pretrial detention in Siberia, revealed in an open letter that she had been subjected to torture while in custody on July 13.
Ponomarenko, who has been charged with spreading fake news about the Russian military, stated that she was forcibly drugged with unknown substances when she requested her personal belongings.
According to Ponomarenko, she was also made to undergo a “psychiatric evaluation” during which she was held down by three Federal Penitentiary Service officers and injected against her will.
These actions are particularly disturbing as psychiatric evaluations of criminal suspects do not typically involve injections. Ponomarenko also revealed that she had no recollection of three days during her detention.
In response to these revelations, the Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) has called for Ponomarenko’s release and for the charges against her to be dropped. The organization has also demanded that Ponomarenko be provided with protection while in detention to ensure that she is not subjected to further abuse.
Ponomarenko’s lawyer, Sergei Podolsky, has stated that she was transferred from St. Petersburg to Barnaul at the end of June and will be evaluated at the Altai Clinical Hospital for 28 days.
Progressive Russians have taken to social media to express their support for Ponomarenko, with many noting that the Russian state’s actions are reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents during the Brezhnev era.
Ponomarenko faces a potential sentence of 10 years in prison for a Telegram post regarding the bombing of a theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, in which hundreds of civilians were killed.
A Russian law passed in March criminalizes the dissemination of “fake” reports that “discredit the armed forces.” The CFWIJ firmly condemns the use of force against Ponomarenko and calls for her immediate release and for all charges against her to be dropped.