Ukraine: Bloggers React to the Detention of Activist

It the middle of August, the Ukrainian harm reduction community was very disturbed with the detention of Russian activist Irina Teplinskaya. Russian web-media reported [ru] that Irina was detained by police at the airport of her home city of Kaliningrad accused of drug smuggling. Law enforcement claimed that one pill of Methadone was found in her luggage. Irina stated that these drugs were planted on her. Irina was flying from Kiev, Ukraine where she went through a course of rehabilitation. 

Irina Teplinskaya, photo is taken from Andrey Rylkov Foundation web-site and used under Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)


Irina is a well-known human rights leader who fights for rights of Russian people living with drug addiction to have access to Methadone substitution therapy. Irina is one of the leaders of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network.  

Irina openly admits that she has been living with drug addiction for more than 30 years. Her life story was shared in her speech , which can be found on the Rylkov Foundation blog, during the International Harm Reduction Conference in Beirut in April 2011. Growing up in a well-off Soviet family, Irina started using drugs when she was 14. Many times she tried to quit but without much success. For drug-related crimes, she spent approximately 16 years in prison. Though the use of unsterile syringes, she became infected with HIV, TB and Hepatitis C. After receiving treatment in a TB hospital, she started aid work helping other TB and HIV infected people living with a drug addiction.      

Irina sees her main goal in forcing Russian government to permit the opiate replacement therapy which is recommended by UN and which is effectively used in all developed countries all over the world. Advocating introduction of substitution therapy in Russian, Irina repeatedly appealed to various courts of Russian Federation as well as the European Court for Human Rights. In 2010, Irina submitted a claim to the UN Special Rapporteur for the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Irina was among those NGO leaders who met with the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay during her visit to Russia in February 2011.

Irina with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, photo from Andrey Rylkov Foundation web-site and used under Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Ukrainian blogger from the Rising Voices grantee project the Drop-In Center Pavel Kutsev commented on Irina’s detention and analyzed what implications it might have on the substitution therapy programs in Ukraine. Pavel was particularly concerned that the detection of an entire pill of Methadone might make medical personnel return to the practice of grinding the pills into a powered before giving to the patients. This practice was abandoned a couple years ago after protests of harm reduction activists.  Pavel wrote:

Очень трудно быть объективным, когда происходит нечто международно-скандальное, изначально мутное… Известную активистку Иру Теплинскую, которая ещё недавно проходила в Киеве курс лечения задержали на томожне с РФ прямо в Калининградском а/п и теперь выдвигают обвинение… в контрабанде наркотиков. 

Внимательно отслеживая все обсуждения этого инцендента, пока могу поделиться только одним неутешительным выводом … для оппонентов ЗПТ появлись достаточно весомый аргумент. 
  Если из Украины можно вывезти наркотический препарат применяемый исключительно в программах заместительной терапии …, то его происхождение можно (и, увы, не без оснований) истолковать только одним – утечка в нелегальный оборот наркотиков используемых в исключительно медицинских программах ЗПТ – не такой уж и “единичный случай”… 
  Остается надеяться, чтобы не началось закручивание гаек со стороны МВД в самой Украине. Дескать, вообще уже охренели – сайты дырявые, а этот грёбанный метадон даже закордон “гуляет”. И примут “меры”. 
  И мы помним эти меры – дробление в порошок, кипяточек… Неужели то, чего мы с таким трудом добивались – своё   право на получение  препарата без нарушения его целостности, теперь может  снова кем-то оччень умным поставиться “под сомнение”… Тревожно, однако.

It is hard to be objective when you face something so international, so scandalous, and obviously not transparent…Well-known activist Irina Teplinskay which just went through treatment in Kiev was detained at one of the Customs Control of the Russian Federation at Kaliningrad airport and accused of … drug smuggling. 

Carefully following all developments of the incident I can come only to one conclusion – opponents of substitution therapy have now got quite a strong argument.

If you can take medication out of Ukraine … which is used in the replacement therapy only,  than it is obvious where it comes from (and this unfortunately makes sense) – so leaking the drugs used in medical substitution therapy into a black market is a fairly common thing.


We just need to hope that after this the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine will not start cracking down on us. They might say that you guys went nuts, that the sites definitely have ‘holes’ … Methadone is detained even abroad. And then they might start ‘to take measures’.

And all of us remember these ‘measures’ – grinding the pills into power and mixing with a hot water. Is that what we worked so hard to achieve? Our right to receive the pills as an entire pill, can now be questioned again? I really worry about this….

On September 5th the web- site of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation published good news that Irina was released from the prison and her criminal case was closed. This became possible not only because of the good work of her lawyers, but also because of widespread public support.

Photo taken from Andrey Rylkov Foundation web-site and used under Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Blogger Slava from the Association of the Substitution Treatment Advocates of Ukraine (ASTAU)commented on this:

Рад за Ирину Теплинскую

Мня сегодня очень обрадовала ссылка,что  дело в отношении Ирины прекращено.И по этому поводу решил черкануть в блоге.Так на душе приятно что полицаи Калининградские сломали свои зубы-клычища которыми хотели укусить Ирку.

Ведь понятно что кто-кто а Ира человек который всегда на чеку,и с такой ерундой не в жизнь бы не решилась пересекать границу.Слава Богу что все обошлось!!!

I am very happy for Irina Teplinskaya. I was very glad when I have read the news that the criminal case against Irina has been closed. So I decided to write about this on my blog. My heart feels warm when I realize that Kaliningrad police ‘cracked their teeth’ on Irina’s case.

It was obvious that such an experienced and careful person such as Irina would never decide to cross the border with the pill. Thank God that everything is fine now.

1 comment

  • […] Andrey Rulkov Foundation promotes humanistic attitude towards people living with the drug addiction and urges for the legalization the Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT) in Russia. The organization provides direct support the drug users, runs needles exchange programs, raises awareness of drug users on health care issues and places them in various medical establishments and rehabilitation centers.  The Foundation also played a leading role in the advocacy campaign against detention of Russian harm reduction activist Irina Teplinskaya. […]

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