Blackmailing, extortion, and torture in Kresty-2
Reports about tortures in prisons, penal colonies, and pretrial detention facilities come from different parts of Russia on a regular basis. First, an atrocious story occurred in a Yaroslavl penal colony, then the public became aware of complaints of inmates kept in Moscow, and now the time has come for St. Petersburg. The Human Rights Commissioner in St. Petersburg requires to launch a repeated probe based upon newly discovered evidence of tortures committed to extract money, confessions, or certain services.
Time for Kresty
A special commission has been working in St. Petersburg since August 7. Following complaints of human rights activists, the central headquarters of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) of the Russian Federation dispatched a group of inspectors to Kresty-2 Pretrial Detention Center. The FPS Administration for St. Petersburg has reacted promptly, which is understandable – no one is interested in a scandal a la Yaroslavl.
This story began after the publication of shocking videos showing battering and humiliation of detained suspects on Gulagu.net portal.
Convicts and suspects collaborating with the prison administration acted as torturers. Human rights advocates and relatives of the victims believe that so-called ‘pressure cells’ exist not only with the knowledge of prison authorities – but with the approval of the investigative bodies, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), and police. The above structures use beating, tortures, and humiliation to extract required confessions from people and solve crimes.
Furthermore, witnesses claim that the abuses were broadcasted live via a Skype call. Specialists believe that the purpose of such a broadcast was to extract money from suspects' relatives. Ekaterina Kosarevskaya and Yana Teplitskaya, members of the Public Monitoring Commission, wrote as follows in their submission:
“Visited cell 542, where beaten Andrei was placed immediately after his transfer from cell 438 where he was battered. Somehow, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) hasn't visited cell 542. The inspectors of the FPS and FPS Administration for St. Petersburg have visited it; they did not report the beating but seized the radio. People kept in the cell told us that Andrei was beaten prior to that (they saw traces: bruises on the back of the right hip and buttocks and a bruised ear). Three cellmates were battering him and extorting money – 20 thousand rubles ($302) – for ‘quiet life".
In addition, the members of the Public Monitoring Commission claim that the abusers had shown records of tortures of other people committed in Gorelovo Penal Colony to the victim and then filmed the beating of Andrei and broadcasted it via a Skype call. The ombudsman has drawn the following sad conclusions:
“Operative management agents recruited from convicts and detained suspects reside in three cells.
FPS ‘activists’ whose names still remain unknown
The administration of the pretrial detention facility and FPS operatives illegally provide to them cell phones, wooden bats, other restricted items, and home-made food; they create for the agents privileged confinement conditions in exchange for illegal tortures of other inmates”.
From bruises to murder
In fact, beatings are not an exception in pretrial detention facilities, penal colonies, and prisons – but rather an everyday fact of life. Such incidents are thoroughly concealed, while whistleblowers are punished and thrown into solitary cells even more battered. Deaths are pretty frequent – but prison medics produce standard certificates providing such causes of death as heart failure and other illnesses the victims had never suffered from.
Kresty-2 Pretrial Detention Center in Kolpino (a suburb of St. Petersburg) was commissioned on December 1, 2017. Its construction had commenced in 2007; the capacity of the penitentiary institution is 4 thousand inmates. In 2014, FPS Director Gennady Kornienko noted that Kresty-2 is going to become the largest prison not only in Europe – but in the entire world. The area of the penitentiary complex is 35 ha. Its shape replicated notorious Kresty-1 on Vyborgskaya Storona.
The outrageous facts recently uncovered by the Public Monitoring Commission have hit the headlines by coincidence – the management of Kresty-2 Pretrial Detention Center is currently replaced. New director Vladimir Ivlev, unwilling to answer for the deeds of his predecessor Vadim L’vov, ordered his subordinates to provide comprehensive assistance to the Moscow inspectors.
Vladimir Ivlev, Director of Kresty-2
This is very understandable – take, for instance, the terrible death of businessman Valery Pshenichny, owner of NovIT Pro. The person dubbed abroad "Russian Elon Musk" died on February 5, 2018. Initially, the FPS had insisted that the cause of his death was suicide. But the traces found on the victim's body exposed cruel tortures, rape, and murder. The ICR reluctantly launched a probe into this crime – but the persons responsible for the death of the businessman still remain unknown.
Valery Pshenichny died in the pretrial detention facility after tortures
Human rights activists have established eight beating and torture incidents committed in penal colonies, pretrial detention facilities, and during arrests since the beginning of 2018. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The majority of beatings in penitentiary institutions are committed to extract confessions or money from inmates.
The average ‘paycheck' of extortionists is 20 thousand rubles ($302). Businessmen are forced to pay more – 50 thousand rubles ($756) per month and up. This is the so-called ‘ticket to quiet life'. However, it has no effect if an order to seize the business and rob is received. Millions of rubles are at stake in such situations.
Using various torture instruments, including electric shockers, prison ‘activists' force people to part with their homes, lands, and shares. This is why many businessmen put under investigation are trying to flee Russia as soon as possible and have ‘reserve airfields' abroad, including accounts in foreign banks.
Pretrial Detention Center № 1 (Kresty-2) )
In fact, the Russian penitentiary system includes a smoothly-running scheme created to collect ‘levies’ from detained suspects. Penitentiary officials and criminal ‘authorities’ are in charge of this scheme. It is not new – such schemes have been existing for centuries in various parts of the world. Only some European countries managed to eradicate this vicious phenomenon by now.
Check for life
The FPS commission, Prosecutor’s Office of St. Petersburg, ICR, representatives of the human right commissioner, and public activists have to review all abuse cases and present a comprehensive report to the public.
Valery Maksimenko, Deputy Director of the FPS
The Federal Penitentiary Service admits violations. According to Valery Maksimenko, Deputy Director of the FPS, “officers of the pretrial detention facility hadn’t stopped the beating of the inmate and permitted the smuggling of a telephone into the cell; this phone was used to record the video that has leaked online”.
Another official statement was issued a few days ago. Valery Boyarinev, Deputy Director of the FPS, said that that the audit has uncovered numerous violations committed in the Pretrial Detention Center № 1 (Kresty-2). Evidence of beatings, extortion, criminal irresponsibility, and exceedance of official powers was obtained.
“Violations were committed in relation to the confinement of certain categories of persons – both habitual criminals and first-time offenders; significant violations were committed in relation to the placement of first-time offenders to cells,” – Boyarinev said. Interestingly, two victims battered in Kresty-2 Pretrial Detention Center refused to submit complaints to the law enforcement authorities.
The findings and conclusions of the commission should be publicized as early as this week. Human rights activists hope that the names of the sadists and torturers are finally disclosed to the public. The country must know its ‘heroes’.