Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

Moscow joins more than 100 cities around the world protesting the drug war

Moscow (26 June 2014)

Thousands of activists will take to the streets in more than 100 cities on June 26 to highlight how harmful drug laws have caused health crises, instability and mass incarceration around the world.

Mass demonstrations and other actions are planned in London, Paris, Warsaw, Mexico City, Kathmandu, Rome, Phnom Penh, Tbilisi, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and more than 90 other cities. The actions are varied – from public gatherings, street art and dance displays, music concerts, public meetings and workshops, boat shows, social media campaigns, and advertisements on public transportation and billboards.

The events are scheduled for June 26, which is the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This day is used by many governments to celebrate the war on drugs, to justify violent crackdowns and to promote harsh punishments. It has even been used in the past for public executions and beatings of drug offenders in some countries.

Russian drug policy is criticized all over the world as especially harsh and senseless. It is built on torture – endless humiliation and violation of human dignity and physical punishment. This is what people who use drugs face everywhere – from medical institutions to places of detention and other relevant government facilities. Drug treatment programs are almost not available, but police repressions, cruelty and violations are omnipresent.

The state institutions fail to provide quality medical care for vulnerable populations such as people who use drugs, sex workers and prisoners. While opioid analgesics such as methadone and buprenorphine are widely available in the rest of the world for opioid drug users as medical substitution treatment, in Russia this treatment are still illegal. Torture of people on opiate withdrawal in police and pre-trial detention centers, extortion of confessions without access to any relevant drug dependency treatment – it is one of the ordinary practices in Russia with seems normal even for addicts themselves and which they even don’t try to question by asking for medication.

Russian activists, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina of the Pussy Riot who have been recently released from prison and witnessed many atrocities of the Russian war on drugs will make public statement against torture of drug users in Russian prisons and against excessive incarceration, as well as the need humanization of drug policy in our country and decriminalization of drug users. The activists will take a walk in the centre of Moscow with “Support, don’t punish!” t-shirts on them (this is the only way to demonstrate opinion in Russia because mass actions are prohibited) and make photo session for their supporters in social media and press.



















Photos: Tamara Teneta


The global war on drugs has long been a war on the people who use drugs. It has not brought the desired results; in over 40 years of this war, neither the supply nor demand of drugs has fallen. Although it is proved ineffective, the war on drugs wages on, and increasingly resembles a military endeavour where its budget grows along with its casualties.

In Russia, this war is waged in an especially cruel and inhuman fashion. This country incarcerates its citizens who are different or “unworthy” as its main method for tackling social and political issues. Here, imprisonment is presented as the cure for drug dependency. People who use drugs are outcasts—they are despised, hated, accused of all problems, and criminalized. Similar to xenophobia and homophobia, narcophobia has become a protective cloak for the authorities. They send us all to search for new enemies in order to turn our anger from those who have created economic and social inequalities, and towards those who suffer the most from these inequalities.

Creating an image of the enemy, the subhuman, the zombie, and reinforcing that image in the public consciousness justifies the inhuman treatment of drug dependent people in our country. Human rights? Drug users aren’t human! Protection against torture and inhuman treatment? But they are junkies, what else do they deserve? For the average person, it is justified, normal, and even applauded when a drug dependent person is tortured, beaten, or handcuffed to a radiator. When a drug dependent person is treated like an animal, with no respect for human dignity… this is normal.

Russia’s drug policy is built on torture. Humiliation and violation of human dignity—this is what drug dependent people face everywhere, from hospitals to prisons and other state facilities. Drug treatment programs are scarce but police repression is widespread. The police pretend they are fighting “crime” but they have chosen an easy target, and they provoke drug users into committing crimes. While the total number of incarcerated people in Russia has decreased gradually, the number of people in prison for drug law violations is growing. Today, one in six inmates are behind bars because of drug crimes. As long as drug policy reforms don’t call for decriminalizing drug use and reducing the number of inmates, it will not be possible to improve the situation in prisons, and inmates’ quality of life.  

Denial of medical care for people going through withdrawal in state facilities—hospitals and prisons—is the norm. While all over the world these people are given opioid substitution treatment such as methadone and buprenorphine, Russia still bans these drugs. People suffering from withdrawal are tortured and forced to confess by police officers and prison staff, and no help is offered for their health problems; this is one of the most common practices in our country. Even drug users themselves don’t argue against this practice and don’t demand access to substitution treatment.

Today is the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse and also the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Today we join international activists for drug policy reforms, alongside our own Andrey Rylkov Foundation, to urge you to pay attention to the plight of people who use drugs in our country and to express our solidarity with these people. We call upon drug users themselves, those who are in prison or are at risk of incarceration, and upon their relatives and friends. Don’t let state propaganda fool and break you! Whether you depend on drugs or not, you are citizens of this country. You are people who have dignity, you are worthy of humane treatment. You deserve healthcare and you deserve to receive medicines when you need them. Fight for your rights and never give up!

We join the global campaign whose slogan is “Support. Don’t Punish!” Give us access to treatment and rehabilitation, not criminalization and incarceration. Give us medical care, not torture. Give us solidarity, not harassment. This is what we need to rethink the drug problem, and to begin building a rational and humane drug policy in our country, built on healthcare, dignity, and human rights.

Members of the human rights organization  Zona Prava

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

Maria Alyokhina

President of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation

Anya Sarang


The ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ campaign was organised by an international coalition of NGOs calling on governments to put an end to the expensive and counter-productive war on drugs. According to estimates, the drug war costs in excess of $100 billion annually to enforce and has failed to reduce drug markets or drug use.

The list of high-profile figures calling for the end of this war on drugs is growing fast: Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda and Maria, President José Mujica of Uruguay, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Brad Pitt, Sir Richard Branson, Kofi Annan and Russell Brand to name a few.

 “The Global Day of Action is a public show of force for drug policy reform”, said Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium. “The tide is turning and governments need to urgently fix their drug policies and repair the damage that has been done”.

The “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign is a global initiative supported by more than 100 NGOs around the world. It calls for investments in proven effective and cost-effective harm reduction responses for people who use drugs, and for the decriminalization of people who use drugs and the removal of other laws that impede public health services. For more information and resources about the campaign, visit and

For more information on Tortures in Russian drug policy please see the report of Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice Atmospheric Pressure: Russian Drug Policy as a Driver for Violations of the UN Convention against Torture.


(Moscow) Russian: Artem Chapaev: +79153491955 English: Ivan Varentsov +7 (916) 642-56-82

(London) Jamie Bridge,, +44 (0) 7815 047 603

(New York) Patrick Gallahue,, 917-328-0709

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One comment to “Moscow joins more than 100 cities around the world protesting the drug war”

  1. Nick Stafford says:

    This is fantastic, well done.

    Just one point. You are right, this is a war against people who use illegal drugs, not a war on the drugs themselves. However the majority of those waging this war use drugs themselves, mainly alcohol, but tobacco and caffeine as well.

    This is a war being waged by one group of (currently legal) drug users against people who use (currently illegal) drugs.


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