Soviet dissident pursued by Putin in the Soviet Union arrested

The Bell

A St. Petersburg court has detained Soviet dissident Alexander Skobov on charges of “justifying terrorism”. Skobov is a Soviet dissident who was twice committed to psychiatric hospitals for enforced treatment over his anti-communist stance. Vladimir Putin, then a young KGB officer, was involved in the cases against him in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Alexander Skobov, 66, has been accused of publicly “justifying terrorism” over a post he made regarding the bombing of the Crimean bridge, which connects the annexed Crimean peninsula to mainland Russia. It’s not clear exactly which post as Skobov twice discussed the bridge in comments on social media. In one, he said he hoped that sooner or later the bridge would be destroyed and in the second he explained the importance of its destruction. 
  • Skobov is in poor health, his friends say. In detention, he is being deprived of the medicine he needs. If he remains under arrest, Skobov’s life expectancy can be measured in months, said human rights activist Yuly Rybakov. Skobov was visiting Rybakov at the time of his arrest. 
  • In the USSR, Skokov was regularly charged with “anti-Soviet” offenses. He was first arrested in 1978 on charges of distributing anti-Soviet pamphlets and ordered into a psychiatric hospital for two years (punitive psychiatry was commonplace in the Soviet Union, used from the 1960s to the 1980s as a major tool of state repression). He was sent back there in 1982 after daubing anti-Soviet slogans on the walls of buildings before being released in 1985. 
  • The cases involving Skobov were handled by Vladimir Putin, who at the time worked in the KGB’s notorious fifth directorate, responsible for combating “ideological sabotage.” This is not mentioned in the president’s official biography.

Why the world should care

In modern Russia, just as in the Soviet era, free speech has long been criminalized. Today’s courts, like their Soviet predecessors, are especially harsh on dissenters. The ailing Skobov, who is also a carer for his 90-year-old mother, was remanded in custody while his case is investigated.


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