Russian doctors' union leader arrested twice and beaten by police for delivering masks to medical staff fighting COVID-19
Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of the medical workers’ union Alyans Vrachei (Doctors’ Alliance), has been arrested twice in the Novgorod region city of Okulovka, where she was attempting to deliver personal protection equipment (PPE) to local medical personnel.
First, on April 2, Vasilyeva and her team were arrested on a highway near Okulovka and taken to a police station. Despite their arrest, the group was able to deliver more than 500 respirators as well as protective suits, goggles, and gloves to two local hospitals.
The activists were cited under a new law penalizing violations of emergency regulations under official states of heightened preparedness, OVD-Info reported. In other words, they were accused of violating self-isolation rules because they were moving through the city. The union members spent nearly all of April 2 in the police station before they were released at about 10:00 PM local time. Then, Vasilyeva was once again arrested.
The Doctors’ Alliance described her arrest as a physical attack: Vasilyeva was allegedly hit above the stomach in the solar plexus area, said human rights advocate Dinar Idrisov. The medical workers’ union believes its director may have received a concussion as well. An ambulance crew was not permitted to treat her for an extended period of time, the union claims. Then, Vasilyeva was cited for resisting police orders and taken to a police station to spend the night. She was released 19 hours later on the evening of April 3.
In late March, at the request of medical workers, the Doctors’ Alliance began collecting PPE for use in Russian hospitals. Anastasia Vasilyeva was called in for questioning by Russia’s Investigative Committee after the union announced a fundraising drive to finance its efforts. Vasilyeva has actively and publicly criticized the shortage of PPE in Russian hospitals on the Doctors’ Alliance YouTube channel and predicted that the country’s healthcare system is drastically underprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic due to government shortcomings. Other health experts have agreed that PPE is very scarce but offered mixed assessments of Russia’s prognosis in the pandemic.
Translation by Hilah Kohen