Ukrainian Spy, Colonel Billionaire and Liberal Governor

Ukrainian Spy, Colonel Billionaire and Liberal Governor
Lefortovo pre-trial detention No.2

From the perspective of violation of their rights to tooth powder and toilet paper, all Lefortovo residents are equal.

This autumn reflects poorly on Lefortovo isolation facility’s health. It has long been known that Lefortovo is sick. But the current autumn aggravation is an especially nasty case. Shouting, nervous breakdowns, rudeness, and prohibitions. That describes the dialogues between celebrity prisoners, high-ranking Lefortovo officials, and members of the Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) in the central prison Lefortovo.

Prohibitions are worth mentioning separately. Lefortovo is famous for exogamy. This detention center is the enraged printer of the penitentiary system. For instance, according to one of the recent prohibitions, from now on, PMC members are not allowed to talk to prisoners in their cells. Conversations can only be held individually, in separate rooms. When asked “What is the basis for this prohibition,” their answer is as follows: “This is our interpretation of the law on public control. Some people think,” “Well, some people think sounds like a throwback to USSR. We do not care what somebody thinks. The Public Monitoring Commission works in accordance with the law,” PMC members replied.


Victor Shkarin, the Deputy Chief of the SIZO-2 Lefortovo detention center, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia

Nikolay Ivanov, the Deputy Chief for regime in the SIZO-2 Lefortovo detention center, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia

Roman Sushchenko, the Ukrainian journalist charged with Espionage (Art. 276 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Nikita Belykh, the former Governor of the Kirov region, accused of Bribe-Taking (Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Dmitry Zakharchenko, the former Acting Head of the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption under MIA of Russia, accused of Bribe-Taking (Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Mikhail Maksimenko, the former Head of the Main Investigations Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia, accused of Bribe-Taking (Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Aleksandr Lamonov, the former Deputy Head of the Main Directorate for Personal Security of the Investigative Committee of Russia, accused of Bribe-Taking (Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Denis Nikandrov, the first Deputy Head of the ICR Main Investigations Directorate in Moscow, accused of Bribe-Taking (Art. 290 of the Russian Criminal Code)

Elena Masyuk, Lidiya Dubikova, PMC members


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Detained on September 30, Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko is still in the quarantine cell. The premises give an impression of sheer austerity. Tableware available includes a metal plate, a spoon, and a mug. There are three books: Bulgakov, Pikul and Russian-French dictionary. A few sheets of paper and a pen. “They give me a pen in the morning, and take it away in the evening. I get a lot of thoughts at night, thoughts that need to be recorded, alas there is no pen,” Roman told.

PMC members: Let us give you our pen.

Ivanov: You may not do this. It is against the rules. Contact parcel office.

PMC members: What personal items do you need?

Sushchenko: Here is a list of things that they have taken away from me (holds out a sheet with a list).

Ivanov: No, you are not supposed to do this. This is considered to be correspondence between prisoners and members of the PMC.

PMC members: Meaning I can’t read the list of items seized in prison?

Ivanov: No, you can’t. We take this as written communication. Which must be subjected to censorship.

After getting cooked (this is what they call sanitary treatment here), Sushchenko’s belongings were finally returned to him. However, they seized government-issue prison uniform. That is, the prisoner does not have change of clothes. We ask to return his prison clothes so that he has something to change into. Prison officers’ respond is simple – “you are not supposed to do this.”

Roman dictates a short list of bare essentials. He asks to give it to his relatives. But prison officers forbid the detainee to tell the phone number of his relatives, so we send the list to Roman’s lawyer Mark Feygin instead. We hope the lawyer has already delivered the list and put money into Sushchenko’s account, so that he could buy the essentials, such as water, through an online store.

Sushchenko: I don’t drink tap water. When they hand out food two times a day, offering tea or boiling water, I opt for tea. Tea is sweet. Your brain needs glucose, you know. Therefore, I pick tea.

PMC members: They don’t give you water?

Sushchenko: No. I usually have tea.

PMC members: Besides tea, you are entitled to water. You can have as much water as you want.

Ivanov: Not water, but boiling water.

Sushchenko: It is good that you are here. Now I know I am entitled to water. Nobody has told me this until now.

PMC members: Has consul visited you?

Shkarin: This question does not relate to the conditions of detention.

PMC members: This question relates to human rights.

Shkarin: Not to those of a prisoner.

PMC members: Is this prisoner deprived of rights?

Shkarin: No, he is not.

Sushchenko: No, consul has not visited me.

We ask Roman whether any physical pressure has been exerted on him. Sushchenko denies it. But there was psychological pressure on the first day. Plus, he was given neither food nor water in the first 24 hours. It is in Lefortovo that he was fed for the first time after detention.

Sushchenko: When I was taken to court, the guys who detained me were hungry, angry, and tired. They dropped by in McDonalds on the way to detention facility to buy some food.

PMC members: Did they offer you any?

Sushchenko: No, they didn’t. No hard feelings, though; I lost about six kilos these past days; but this is not important.

PMC members: Roman, have you been given a hygiene kit?

Sushchenko: Yes. They said I get a roll of toilet paper per month. I tend to use it sparingly.

Ivanov: Prisoners get 25 meters of toilet paper per month (that is, 0.8 m per day – Е. М.’s note).

PMC members: What if he runs out of paper before then?

Ivanov: He can write an application. We will consider it (probably, the consideration takes 30 days, the period for consideration of all written statements in Lefortovo detention center. – Е.М.’s note).

Shkarin: And mind you, there is no discrimination: we give the same amount of toilet paper both to Russian citizens and citizens of other countries.

PMC members: Roman, have you got toothpaste?

Sushchenko: They gave me tooth powder.

Shkarin: Here it is (Shkarin takes a small plastic box with a green sticker “Mint taste” off the shelf)! Its weight is 140 grams.

Ivanov: Prisoners get 30 g per month.

PMC members: So this box is intended for five months? What if he runs out of it earlier?

Ivanov: He doesn’t. As long as he doesn’t scatter it.

PMC members: What if he does?

Ivanov: He will pick it up.


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Nikita Belykh names two problems, which he considers fundamental in Lefortovo: difficulty in gaining access to the detention center for lawyers, and delay in correspondence delivery.

Shkarin: You do receive correspondence.

Belykh: My right to correspondence has been violated.

Shkarin: It hasn’t been. Everything gets delivered to you.

Belykh: When? A month late. Why is there no proper postal communication in this place? This is a system error, and you do not even try to fix it.

Shkarin: Nobody forbids you to exchange correspondence.

Belykh: You know (talking to Shkarin), you’re the kind of person who does not stand by its words. I have already told you that. You’re comparing apples and oranges. There is a problem with the staff (Belykh is now talking to PMC members). A young prison guard told me the other day: “Why are you sitting on someone else's bunk bed? You aren’t allowed to do that.” I wrote a statement, asking to show me the provision about bunk bed in the In-House Rules. Or, for example, our cell was searched a while back. We had received food the day before, and there were lots of instant noodles packs lying on the floor. So, a guard rudely told us: “You’re bourgeois or something? Starving or what? Why is there so much food?” I wrote a statement. Later, the officer paid me a visit and apologized.

By the way, in the pre-trial detention center, you can order food once a month. It is delivered in parts after a few weeks. We are told that some extra food can be ordered during a month. I’ve tried to, but it hasn’t worked. Plus, there is this perennial problem with depot. It is getting cold in here. And they won’t give me my warm clothes from the depot. I’ve tried to write a statement, but they haven’t brought me anything.

Ivanov: Written applications are reviewed within a month.

Belykh: Ok, warm clothes will be handed out within a month. But it is freezing in here now. We have been wrapping up in blankets. It’s been very cold. But then Supervision Prosecutor Lonchakov came (Vladislav Lonchakov, senior directorate prosecutor on supervision of the legality of criminal punishment execution under the Prosecutor’s General Office of the Russian Federation – Е.М.’s note), and I told him my problem; they brought my warm clothes from the depot on the same day.    



Zakharchenko: At the moment, I’m most concerned about when they will give me my warm clothes from the depot. It’s going to get very cold, and I only got а light jacket. I’ve already filled a statement. But they don’t give me anything.

Ivanov: Written applications are reviewed within a month.

PMC members: (talking to Zakharchenko) You can make an oral statement. It should be recorded in a log. According to the law, they are obliged to review oral statements within a day.

Ivanov: Good. Shall we register a statement? Zakharchenko, sign here. Your statement will be responded right away. The response is as follows: clothes from the depot shall be handed out upon written request, which is reviewed within a month.

Zakharchenko: I’ve already filed a written request.

PMC members: Why only upon a written request?

Ivanov: According to the Federal Law # 59 on the order of consideration of citizens' appeals.

PMC members: How does this relate to handing out of prisoners’ belongings from the depot?

Shkarin: The term of belongings issuance is not defined.

Ivanov: There are instructions on supervision service organization. But it’s for internal use only.

PMC members: That is, PMC members can’t read these instructions to judge the veracity of your words.

Ivanov: Yes, they can’t. It is for internal use only.

Zakharchenko’s cell mate tears off a blank piece of paper from some letter and asks PMC members to write the address to which he can send a letter: “Over the eleven months that I’ve been serving my time here, it is the first time I’ve seen someone protecting our interests like you do.” I write down my second name and tell him that letters seldom get through to PMC’s address. It is better send a letter to the newspaper where I work. I put the name Novaya Gazeta on the piece of paper.

Ivanov: You are not allowed to write the address. Give me that (I give Ivanov the piece of paper). She’s written Novaya Gazeta (hands the piece to Shkarin).

PMC members: Is it forbidden to write Novaya Gazeta?

Ivanov: It is…

Maksimenko, Lamonov, Nikandrov

We enter a cell. We ask the prisoners if we can sit down on the bed, since the bench is filled with papers and books. “Sure,” they say. Then we suddenly hear a hollo of the Deputy Chief of Lefortovo Ivanov: “No! PMC members are not allowed to sit on the bed.” Although he fails to provide an explanation as to why we can’t do this. Prisoners vacate the bench, and we take a sit. Then we begin to question Maksimenko.

He looks terribly depressed, has lost much weight, and grown thin. Sitting on the bed with his head down. Complains of feeling sick for a few days. Gets headaches. Lying down practically all the time. Maksimenko’s answer to every question is the same: “I’m fine, I’m fine. I can surprise you – I really like it here.” The Deputy Chief for Regime Ivanov standing next to him looks like he doesn’t believe what he hears, thus he leans down to the PMC members who sit on the bench.

PMC members: Are you eavesdropping or something?

Ivanov: It is my duty to eavesdrop.

The only thing that Maksimenko does not like is the fact investigator has not visited him for a long time.

Ivanov: But the investigator has the right not to visit you for months. It is his right, not obligation, to visit you (prisoners).

Then we proceed to Aleksandr Lamonov’s cell. There is no bench in the cell. I ask the officers: “Where is a bench? Where do PMC members sit?”

Shkarin: “This cell is underequipped. There is no bench. You see, there is a portable table. Take a sit on the bed.” Funny thing. It is the first time I’ve seen a table not bolted to the floor in a cell. Especially in Lefortovo. Funny thing.

Lamonov has only one claim: “My detention is illegal. Without criminal event. But the court doesn’t want to hear anything.”


Then we go to Denis Nikandrov’s cell. He complains that his sight has deteriorated sharply over the time spent in the pre-trial detention center. He tells he has been visited by an ophthalmologist from the Federal Penal Correction Service, who has had a magnifying glass: “She should be awarded the Nobel Prize for being able to examine me by means of a magnifying glass in contrast to civil ophthalmologists, who usually do this using Goldmann lens. She said my sight is good. The other day they brought me to medical office to check my sight. They said I can see 60% at -10. But I had asked them about the overall state of my vision, not about how well I can see through the glasses. Plus, they do not allow me to see my son.”

Ivanov: This does not relate to the conditions of detention.

Nikandrov: (Not paying attention to the words of detention facility workers) My son is 9. The investigator does not give permission to see him, you see, as it is contrary to the interests of justice. My father in law has died. Still, family visits are not allowed. They don’t let me draw up a power of attorney so that my wife can receive my salary. They don’t care my family got no means to live. They need to put me under pressure. Such are their ways.

PMC members: Well, you probably denied visits too when you were investigator?

Nikandrov: I never denied visits. There were about 20 people of mine in Lefortovo.

PMC members: Did you visit them?

Nikandrov: Not me, but investigative team members.

Ivanov: This does not relate to the conditions of detention.

Nikandrov: (Ignoring the prison officers) Here is what I want to say: three weeks ago Maksimenko was taken to the FSB office. There he was offered tea with previously added psychotropic drugs. Actually, you can add psychotropic drugs to water. Following the visit to the FSB, Maksimenko could not remember his name and did not recognize anyone. So, they wanted to get something out of him. Psychotropic drugs are quite expensive, you know. They are used for a reason. They can be applied only with the authorization of the Federal Security Service Director.

PMC members: Have they applied psychotropic drugs to you?

Nikandrov: Not yet…


During our visit to Lefortovo, detention facility heads kept repeating they were not inventing more and more restrictions for prisoners and members of the PMC. Supposedly, they are but executors of the will of others. That will comes from above, namely, from the Acting Deputy of Federal Penitentiary Service, the Head of the Department of Directly Administered Detention Centers Sergey Kazimirov.



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