Siberian journalist Maria Ponomarenko was put into a psychiatric hospital after writing about the attack on the Mariupol theater

A journalist and activist from the Siberian Peninsula have been transferred to a psychiatric hospital while waiting to be tried for publishing “false news” about the Russian army, her colleagues from RusNews reported, according to The Moscow Times.

Maria Ponomarenko, 44, was detained in St. Petersburg in April for allegedly posting information about the bombing of the Ukrainian port city Mariupol by Russian troops on the “No Censorship” channel on the Telegram messaging application. She faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of spreading “false news” about the army, allegations that fall under a law passed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ponomarenko was sent to hospital for a psychiatric examination as a patient and will remain there for about a month, RusNews announced in a post on Telegram, quoting the journalist’s lawyer, Sergei Podolskiy. Currently, she is not allowed to receive visits or letters from her relatives and can only keep in touch with her lawyer, Podolskiy said. “Our colleague is now at the Altai Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital, located in Barnaul, on Suvorova Street, number 13.”

Maria’s lawyer, Sergei Podolskiy, added that she was sent to the hospital for a psychiatric examination. “Maria will spend about a month in a psychiatric hospital,” the journalist’s colleagues transmitted.

Activist Yana Drobnokhod from Novosibirsk writes about a visit to the hospital to see Maria. “Today we went to see her and handed her a package. I managed to shout at her on the second try. Letters and meetings with relatives are prohibited. You can meet with a lawyer”, her colleagues specified.

Observers believe that Ponomarenko’s placement in psychiatric treatment resembles the Soviet-era punitive psychiatric practice against dissidents.

Alexandra Skochilenko – another activist jailed for “fake news” about the Russian army after replacing price tags in a supermarket with information about the attack on the Mariupol theater – was also ordered last month to be subjected to an investigation by psychiatric evaluators.

Maria Ponomarenko has received numerous fines in the past for her work as an activist.

In August 2020, she was fined $ 180 for a video posted on the social network TikTok in which she said “Let’s go feed the pigeons on August 8th. The birds are hungry” – a message that prosecutors say encouraged people to take part in unauthorized rallies in solidarity with protesters in the city of Khabarovsk in Russia’s Khabarovsk region. Ponomarenko was then forced to pay another $ 180 fine for wearing a face mask with the message “Putin must resign” during one of his court hearings.

Podolskiy said in April that the accusation did not have sufficient grounds to prove that the Telegram posts about the attack on the Mariupol theater were in fact written and published by his client.