On 17 October 2014, 73-year-old human rights defender Ms Ludmila Bogatenkova, the head of the Soldiers Mothers’ Committee in the city of Buynaksk in the Stavropol region, was charged with fraud and put in pre-trial detention. She denied the charges and spent two days in detention before being released on 20 October 2014 after a rapid deterioration in her state of health.
Ludmila Bogatenkova has recently investigated the deaths of Russian soldiers who were, according to various reports, illegally sent to Ukraine. She has defended the rights of conscripts and soldiers since the first Russian war in Chechnya. Ludmila Bogatenkova is an expert on the permanent committee on military-civilian relations of the Russian Federation’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. She suffers from severe diabetes and needs continuous medical treatment.
On 28 August 2014, Buynaksk Soldiers Mothers’ Committee compiled a list of names of approximately one hundred Russian soldiers who were reportedly killed during the armed conflict in Ukraine and three hundred soldiers that were injured. In the same month the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights requested the Russian Federation’s Investigative Committee to carry out an investigation into nine soldiers’ deaths that were uncovered by Ludmila Bogatenkova’s organisation and confirmed by the soldiers’ relatives. On 14 October 2014, during a meeting with President Putin, the Presidential Council handed that list of soldiers directly to the President.
On 17 October 2014 police visited the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee office in Buynaksk to carry out a search. On the same day, Ludmila Bogatenkova was charged with “fraud on a large scale” and arrested. Prior to the arrest, the human rights defender received a strange phone call from someone accusing her of accepting 500 thousand roubles (approximately 10 thousand euro) from him.
After authorities arrested Ludmila Bogatenkova, on Saturday 18 October, the court ruled to detain her in pre-trial prison. During the court hearing, the authorities had to call an ambulance to the court building as the human rights defender fell ill as she had not had access to her regular medicine for about one day. After the court ruling, Ludmila Bogatenkova was transferred to a pre-trial detention centre in the city of Pyatigorsk, approximately 140 kilometres from her home city. However, when investigative authorities brought Ludmila Bogatenkova to the pre-trial prison, the administration of the prison refused to accept her as she needed urgent medical assistance for her diabetes. The human rights defender was held until 20 October 2014 in a cell in a temporary detention facility in Buynaksk and was not given the opportunity to meet with her lawyer or receive any parcel from her assistant. Reportedly, police had to call for an ambulance on several occasions due to Ludmila Bogatenkova’s health conditions.
On Monday, 20 October 2014, the police investigator ordered her release from pre-trial custody accompanied by travel restrictions.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the Russian Federation to:
1. Immediately drop all charges against human rights defender Ludmila Bogatenkova as it is believed that the charges and her detention are motivated solely by her peaceful and legitimate human rights work;
2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ludmila Bogatenkova;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Photo: Radio Svoboda