For many years Irina Teplinskaya has been campaigning for replacement therapy to be available to drug addicts in Russia, but it remains banned by the law. On 18 August Irina returned to Russia from a course of rehabilitation in Ukraine. At the border she was searched and a tablet ‘found’ in her bag. Now she faces imprisonment – not for the first time. We publish here the impassioned statement she has issued.
Irina Teplinskaya on oD Russia
I had to steal regularly to pay for my fixes and food. I stole everything - phones, purses, gold from drunken men. My dose was huge, nearly 2g a day; I would inject half a gram at a time. I was stealing day in day out and sometimes didn't get any sleep for weeks. I would doze off for a couple of hours on a stair somewhere, then I was back to looking for money.
A life in free fall: a Russian drug addict's story (2), 17 November 2010
Dozens of young people in Russia die every year because the law prohibits opiate substitution therapy (OST) with Methadone and Buprenorphine, tried and tested in developed countries throughout the world and advocated by the UN. Needle and syringe programmes have recently been banned in Russia, too, although, these are considered a major component of comprehensive HIV prevention programmes among people who inject drugs.
Human rights for Russian drug addicts: I will not be silenced!, oDRussia, 10 May 2011
I live in a country where human life and dignity count for nothing. A country where 100,000 young people die of overdoses every year and even more of AIDS and tuberculosis, which are untreatable because Russia offers them no opportunity to be treated for the most terrible affliction – drug dependency. I've buried so many wonderfully talented people – even a war wouldn't kill so many.
Free fall: a Russian drug addict crashes – again!, 13 January 2011
It’s happened. What I’ve feared most ever since I embarked on my lawsuit with Russia.
In February 2011 I submitted a request to the Kaliningrad regional office of the Ministry of Health. I asked to be prescribed replacement therapy to deal with my drug dependency, recorded on my medical card from drug clinics where I have been registered since 1983. This was refused on the grounds that under Russian law replacement therapy is banned. I appealed against this decision in the district court, citing the Russian Federation Constitution and all the international legal documents.
On 27 May 2011 the District Court of the Leningrad district [in Kaliningrad] dismissed my statement questioning the actions of the Ministry of Health, so I lodged an appeal with the Regional Court of the Kaliningrad Region.
On 3 August 2011 the Kaliningrad upheld the District Court’s decision. I was planning to appeal to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the European Court of Human Rights.
From 14 May to 18 August I was in rehab in Ukraine, leaving people with the power of attorney to deal with the court case.
At 14.45 on 18 August 2011 I flew into Kaliningrad from Kiev. I got no further than Passport Control before I realised that something was wrong. My passport was stamped and I put my hand luggage on the conveyor: I had a shoulder bag with two Kiev cakes in it and absolutely nothing else. I had to collect a sports bag with my personal belongings, which I had checked in.
I was not even allowed on to Russian territory. 4 men in civvies were waiting for me, a dog handler with a dog and 4 women from the airport services. The men introduced themselves as airport FSB [Federal Security Service] officers, showed their papers (the chief officer was Evgenii Drapp) and asked me to go with them for a body search. I was taken into a room and the dog sniffed my two bags. It didn’t smell anything, because there was nothing there.
When I said I had a piece of checked-in luggage, they wanted to take the receipt stub so they could collect it, but I refused. I explained that the bag was not locked, so it would be a matter of a moment to open it and slip something in. This meant they had to accompany me to the baggage section. They summoned the customs officers – there were now 15 officers in total – I found my bag and the search began. They only searched the checked-in bag, because customs officers are not responsible for hand luggage. The sole witnesses were airport staff – I was isolated from the general public. A record of the questioning was compiled (of which I have copies), describing everything in the bag and concluding that no banned substances or goods had been found.
The bag contained my clothes, small personal belongings, washing powder and ARV [anti retroviral] therapy. I had decanted the washing powder into a bag because the box was too big for my suitcase. The ARV therapy was enough for 1 week, but it was not all in the manufacturers’ containers, because the person empowered to act for me in Kaliningrad had sent it to me in Ukraine in that form. There were 14 tablets of Epivir, 14 Ziagen were in the Epivir box and 26 tablets of Intelence in a bag, which is how they had arrived in the parcel.
In the inventory the powder is described as washing powder and the tablets are listed under the name I had given when I told them I was taking medication for HIV. After that I was once more taken into the room for a body search and left with the [female] airport employees: they had carried out the search and they were the witnesses. They took off all my clothes, examined every seam – and found nothing. They noted down the laptop etc and then searched my sports bag. They put the powder and the medication on one side as confiscated and they wrote down ‘unknown powder’ and ‘unknown tablets’. The tablets were described in detail: colour, size, shape and the numbers and letters stamped on them. At my insistent request (ARV therapy has to be taken regularly, with no interruptions) and after telephone calls with their bosses, they gave me enough medication for 2 days. Everything else was sealed up and signed by the airport staff/witnesses.
The cakes were taken out of my hand luggage, unpacked and examined. When they had finished looking at them, they suddenly asked me to hand over the bag, though it was obviously empty. I was surprised, but gave it to them, because I could see there was nothing in it. One of them started shaking it and a tablet fell out, as if from a sleeve. I had never seen a tablet like it before: it was the size of a Citramon, brilliant white, with ‘40’ written on one side and the other side had deep divisions into 4 parts; each part was convex and sharp, like a little pyramid. They sealed this tablet up too. In the statement I wrote that the ARV therapy and the washing powder belong to me, but that I had never seen the tablet before and it was not mine. I grasped the full horror of my situation: I had not been allowed on to Russian territory, so that I could be accused of drug smuggling. The appearance of that tablet was no coincidence – it was probably a drug.
I was taken to the airport FSB office and the ARV, washing powder and tablet were sent off for examination. I wrote down everything that had happened, detailing my fears, and this statement was accepted. I described the appearance of the tablet and said it had nothing to do with me. I was held in the FSB office until 23.30 and they took both my passports, so I couldn’t run away.
I must emphasise that the search was carried out unlawfully. There were no witnesses other than the women who were searching me – airport customs officials.
Today the investigating officer told me that the analysis had revealed methadone in the tablet which was planted on me. I am now going to see the officer, but what will happen after that I don’t know.
I assume that they planted methadone on me because I have campaigned, and continue to campaign, for the removal of legal barriers preventing the use of Methadone and Buprenorphine as part of replacement therapy for drug addicts in Russia. I consider it was done to discredit me, as revenge for my attempts to protect the rights of drug addicts at national and international levels, including the Kaliningrad courts.
I should like to state that while I was in Ukraine for the last two months I did not take methadone or any other narcotic or mind-altering substances. My rehabilitation was in drug-free conditions. I am prepared to undergo all the necessary tests to prove this.
I appeal for help of any kind in defence of my rights, which have been violated by the law enforcement officers. This letter authorises the Andrei Rylkov Foundation to represent me in any Russian or international agency or organisation, and also to publish in the media, on websites etc. information about everything that has happened to me. I have no objection to the Andrei Rylkov Foundation publishing information concerning my medical diagnoses and my personal data.
Irina Abdyusheva (Teplinskaya) 19 August 2011