Corrupt former cop and anti-Maidan doctor face off against rehab expert accused of cultism in latest Russian drug controversy
Former Rostov-on-Don police lieutenant colonel Natalia Razumnaya has accused her ex-colleagues of planting drugs on a doctor, psychiatry expert Nikolai Kaklyugin of Krasnodar. Razumnaya herself is currently facing charges of using her post to fabricate cases and extract bribes. Her involvement in the Kaklyugin case came to light when the doctor’s attorney added an affidavit from Razumnaya to his defendant’s case, Kommersant reported.
Psychiatric drug expert Nikolai Kaklyugin was arrested on the evening of October 19, 2018, in Rostov-on-Don. Journalists reported that between 10 and 15 grams of the synthetic cannabinoid K2 were found in his possession, and Kaklyugin was soon charged with large-scale attempted drug distribution. His father, Vladimir Kaklyugin, told Kommersant that investigators claimed they initiated the case against his son following an anonymous tip. The elder Kaklyugin also argued that his son’s fingerprints were not found on the confiscated bag of K2 and that no searches have been conducted in his case. Kaklyugin is currently being held in a pretrial detention center, and a court began considering his case in March of 2019.
Natalia Razumnaya gave the psychiatrist’s attorney her affidavit, which is dated August 13, in September. In the document, she accused “security officials with unclean hands” of arranging the charges against Nikolai Kaklyugin on orders from outside the police. She also argued that FSB officials helped police officers fabricate the doctor’s case, saying she had obtained inside information about the investigation through her former supervisors and colleagues. Razumnaya went on to name the police officers she believed had planted K2 on Kaklyugin.
According to Razumnaya, the case against the psychiatrist was “ordered” by Nikita Lushnikov, the leader of a Russian nonprofit called the National Anti-Narcotic Union (NAS). Lushnikov has denied having any connection to Kaklyugin’s case and called the doctor “an unhealthy individual,” Kommersant wrote. However, Kaklyugin’s father told journalists that the doctor was arrested after releasing a film exposé of the NAS.
Fabricated drug cases against activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens are a regular part of the news cycle in Russia, but this case stands out for the unusual reputations of all parties involved. For years, Kaklyugin has bought into far-right conspiracy theories that led him to target Lushnikov, and Lushnikov has been accused by multiple news outlets of using his anti-drug activism to promote a religious cult.
Specifically, since 2015, Nikolai Kaklyugin has led the Krasnodar branch of a federal organization called Mothers Against Narcotics. His father said the psychiatrist “fought actively against sects that claim to rehabilitate drug addicts.” For example, Kaklyugin had posted several columns on the ultraconservative web portal The Russian People’s Line in which he criticized Nikita Lushnikov, calling NAS a front for a Ukrainian religious organization called God’s Kingdom. In 2017, the weekly outlet Sobesednik also argued that Lushnikov had ties to God’s Kingdom, which it called “a totalitarian sect.” On the other hand, Radio Svoboda has called Nikolai Kaklyugin himself a “warrior against the Russian Maidan”: The doctor believes that the 2014 pro-European uprising in Ukraine was arranged by religious sects that are now using anti-drug centers as a front to spur a similar revolution in Russia.
According to a biography on his website, Nikita Lushnikov is himself a former drug addict, but he “successfully underwent rehabilitation” in 2004 and went on to organize a network called The Healthy Youth Centers to help those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Lushnikov also worked as an aide for State Duma Deputies Nikolai Valuyev and Sergey Zheleznyak.
The Healthy Youth Centers Facebook page calls the organization a charitable foundation. In June of 2016, however, the pro-Kremlin-leaning TV channel NTV reported that FSB agents had freed approximately 40 individuals from the center. According to NTV, “the facility left the patients without food, beat them, forbade them from contacting friends and family members, and provided treatment only in the form of dancing to strange music.”
During his time in pretrial detention, Nikolai Kaklyugin has declared a hunger strike three times to demand that his case be transferred to the central office of Russia’s Investigative Committee. Cossack groups from St. Petersburg and Orthodox priests have come to his aid, and about 3,000 people have signed an online petition demanding his release. In June of 2019, the doctor’s father released a video to ask for help from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Translation by Hilah Kohen