Relatives of inmates in prison colonies in Russia’s Leningrad region have sent an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev, asking him to intervene to stop the inhumane treatment and torture of their loved ones in the colonies. Russia’s Union of Prisoners has published photographs of the acts of torture on prison inmates. One of the inmates, unable to withstand the humiliation, later killed himself.
Prison guards in Russia’s Leningrad region are suspected of the brutal torture and rape of inmates in prison colonies under their supervision. On 17 February 2009, a criminal case was brought against senior officials of the prison administration of St Petersburg and Leningrad region. Local and federal prosecutors are investigating several cases of inhumane treatment of prison inmates.
The first case concerns the beating and rape of Ilya Biyazov. He had fled from the prison colony in Fornosovo, near Tosno, after prison officials tried to extort money from him in exchange for releasing him on parole. Biyazov was captured and taken to the Fyodor Gaaz central prison hospital in St Petersburg. He was taken to the hospital’s cellar, stripped of his clothes, and shaven clean. Prison guards and police then began beating and torturing him.
Colonel Balobolko, deputy head of the operative department of the local prison administration, and Major Khachikian, deputy head of the prison colony, wrote the word “faggot” on Biyazov’s chest and back. He was beaten, including several times with a plastic coathanger in the genitals, and the handle of a mop was shoved into his anus and stuffed into his mouth. Balobolko then ordered another inmate to stick his penis into Biyazov’s mouth.
Earlier in December 2008, another inmate, one Niyazov, was subjected to similar torture in the same prison hospital. This happened just nine days before he was due to be released. On the direct orders of Lt Col Vyacheslav Tippel, head of the operative department of the local prison administration, Maj Petrov, head of the organised crime department of the prison administration, ordered his underlings to beat up and torture Niyazov.
The perpetrators of these acts of violence recorded their actions on video. The video material is now being used as evidence in the criminal cases brought against the prison officials.
Yet another inmate of the Fornosovo prison colony, one Lukin, was subjected to a brutal beating in mid-autumn 2008. Lukin had escaped from the colony but was captured. He was beaten up and taken to the office of Col Yevgeni Bychkov at the prison administration, handcuffed to a radiator, and beaten with batons for several hours by Bychkov and Tippel. Lukin suffered two fractured ribs, severe head wounds, and a brain concussion. He was taken to hospital.
Both Tippel and Bychkov admitted their guilt. A court in St Petersburg sentenced both to four years of imprisonment.
In early autumn 2008, Lt Col Tippel and Lt Col Pyotr Dovgopoly, head of pre-trial detention centre administration, tortured an inmate, one Glovatsky, in the pre-trial detention centre in Lebedevo. The two officers extorted from Glovatsky a large sum of money, which his wife delivered to the officers. Glovatsky was beaten while hanging in handcuffs. He is still unable to use his fingers.
Criminal charges were brought against Dovgopoly in the case concerning Glovatsky’s torture in June 2009. Dovgopoly admitted his guilt and was placed under a travel ban. Until 2009, Dovgopoly had served as acting head of the operative department of the local prison administration, in place of Lt Col Tippel, arrested earlier in February 2009.
Even though these cases have been brought to court, many other similar crimes committed by prison officials remain unsolved. The situation is especially dire in the prison colony of Fornosovo, which is headed by Maj Prutnikov. Beatings, torture, and extortion are commonplace. If a telephone is found on an inmate, the usual punishment is shoving a blunt instrument into the anus. The average sum inmates have to pay to the parole commission is RUB 10,000 (EUR 230).
A glaring example of the brutal violence that the prison administration employs is the case of Yevgeni Sekachev, an inmate in the Fornosovo prison. In June 2008, the head of the prison colony, Maj Andrey Prutnikov, and his deputy demanded money from Sekachev for “prison repairs.” Sekachev refused to pay, after which he was placed in solitary confinement, stripped, beaten up, and tortured.
Major Prutnikov himself, as well as Maj Kashintsev and Lt Col Tippel, took part in the beating. They shoved a rubber baton into Sekachev’s anus and then stuffed it into his mouth. After that, Prutnikov took hold of Sekachev’s head and ordered an inmate to stick his penis into Sekachev’s mouth. All these acts were captured on video.
After his release from solitary confinement, Sekachev slit his throat because he could not live with the humiliation he was subjected to. He died during reanimation in the prison hospital. Sekachev had less than six months to serve of his sentence.
In January 2009, four inmates in the prison colony in Fornosovo were brutally beaten and tortured: Samoilov, Chekin, Karpov, and Dokuchaev. All four had been found smoking cannabis. Samoilov was beaten up with particular brutality. Maj Prutnikov did the beating himself together with two other prison officials. The four were all subjected to the same method of torture with a blunt instrument inserted into their anus.
Similar stories abound. Gen Vladimir Malenchuk, head of the prison administration in the Leningrad Oblast, cannot be unaware of the situation. Indeed, there is credible evidence that many such crimes were committed under his direct orders. Malenchuk is also using all his administrative and operative resources to hamper the investigation into these crimes. He is being backed up by powerful people.
Information about Malenchuk’s criminal activities began to emerge almost immediately after his appointment to head the prison administration in August 2007. He was then a colonel, but has risen to the rank of general in just a period of two years. Before his appointment, he served in Kaliningrad. Malenchuk is originally from Chelyabinsk, where he began his police career.
Having been appointed head of the penitentiary system in the Leningrad region, Malenchuk replaced all heads of prison colonies with “his” people. Malenchuk’s “Chelyabinsk group” has had extremely bad relations with other law enforcement agencies and has constantly refused to heed the latters’ call to at least make a semblance of observing the law.
In the first six months of Malenchuk being in the position of authority, the situation in the prison camps and prison hospitals soon became critical. The prison officials extorted money, beating up and torturing the inmates. The group of prison officials brought in by Malenchuk has even tried to impose their criminal methods to all the penitentiary institutions in the Leningrad region.
No criminal case was ever initiated against Malenchuk and his people as none of their victims dared stand up. Being convicts, they feared even harsher reprisals if they complained. Regular inspections of colonies never uncovered any evidence as the torture victims were always moved to other colonies or hidden in cells before the visit of inspectors. The commissions only saw “Potemkin villages.”
The first ever case brought against Malenchuk’s group was that of Ilya Biyazov. Malenchuk and his deputies seemed absolutely sure of their impunity. They tortured and raped Biyazov in front of numerous witnesses from among the medical staff of the prison hospital. Doctors who were at the scene immediately contacted police, asking them to intervene to stop the torture.
On 25 October 2009, there was a protest rally held in St Petersburg to demand the removal of Gen Malenchuk from his post and to place him under investigation. Because of the public pressure, Russia’s federal inspectorate of penitentiary institutions has sent a commission to investigate the incidents. There is an urgent need for international action to demand an end to the torture in the prison system in the Leningrad region.