A young man shot his way out of a Moscow mental institution in a bid to 'rescue' his pregnant girlfriend. The pair turned themselves in on the second day of a police search – both to confess, and to sue the girl's mother.
The assault, they claimed, was a desperate move to free the woman from the horrors of the mental ward and the imposed effects of heavy medication. They claimed the hospitalization was forced, and orchestrated by the woman's mother. The couple has already been dubbed the 'Russian Romeo and Juliet,' and their story is being closely watched by a fascinated public.
It began on February 12, when three men broke into a Moscow psychiatric hospital and 'kidnapped' 32 year-old Anna Pavlenkova. They fired into the air with kinetic guns and used pepper spray against the guard as he tried to stop them. The attackers retreated into a Nissan and took off, taking the girl with them. The police failed to find them for two days, before both Anna and her rescuer-boyfriend came out to tell their story, accompanied by a lawyer.
After the initial shock, their story earned a lot of public sympathy. Anton Butyrin, the 26-year-old Romeo, said the only reason his girlfriend was institutionalized was because her mother hates him. In an interview with Lifenews, Anton said that "Anna's family is inadequate and they wanted her hidden in a mental hospital. But Anna wants to be with me and I want to be with her."
Anna confirmed she was put into the psychiatric ward against her will. "My mother told me straight Anton is the reason," she told Lifenews. "She said I won't be out of the ward until I forget him."
Lyubov Pavlenkova, Anna's mother, was apparently opposed to their relationship up from the start. Neighbors heard frequent fights and loud arguments coming from Lyubov and Anna's apartment. Both lovers claimed the mother once nearly stabbed Anton in the stomach, and threatened to kill him. Eventually, Liubov decided that a mental ward would be the best place to hide her daughter.
"Anna's mother called for the ward medics and talked them into forcibly taking the girl to the mental ward," Sergey Zhorin, a prominent Moscow lawyer who is defending the couple in court, told TV Center channel. "Anna complained about the horrible conditions in the ward. They wouldn't let her walk freely, wash herself or take a shower. They gave her heavy psychotropic drugs, and that's despite the fact the doctors confirmed she was pregnant."
Anton attempted to explain the pregnancy while negotiating with Anna's mother: "As I came to visit Anna in the ward, I ran into her mother at the entrance," he told Lifenews. "I told her my girlfriend was pregnant, but Liubov said Anna won't ever give birth to my child and threatened to carry out a chemical abortion without even informing Anna. She said she'd rather see her daughter sterile for life than bearing my child."
The couple said the threat of the chemical abortion was what pushed them into action: "I was crying and begging Anton to rescue me from the mental ward," Anna told Lifenews. They initially planned to just walk out of the facility, with the kinetic guns and pepper spray as a backup plan.
The police have now dropped all charges against the couple, and Anton and his accomplices may escape with only a fine for hooliganism. However, the case is not closed completely: Investigators are now looking into how it was possible for Anna's mother to place her daughter into an institution reserved for patients with severe diagnoses.
"In an interview to a TV channel Anna's mother confessed it was pretty hard for her to put Anna into the mental house," Zharov told Lifenews, "It was as if she was fishing for compassion for all her effort to hide the girl."
If the police prove the mother's actions were illegal, she could face up to three years in jail. That jail term could be extended to as much as seven years if the investigation discovers the drugs given to the girl in the ward harmed her unborn baby.
Medical workers at the ward will also be held legally responsible if the court finds that Anna's hospitalization was ungrounded.
Across Russia, Anton the Russian Romeo has attracted widespread praise for his actions, and for not giving up on his girlfriend or his future baby.