Russia fires 18 prison officials after torture videos leaked

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia’s prison service on Wednesday (Nov 10) said it had dismissed 18 officials after a whistleblower leaked videos of rape and torture inside its facilities.

Last month, the Gulagu.net NGO published footage of abuse at a jail in the central city of Saratov. The videos were leaked by former inmate Sergei Savelyev – a Belarus national – who then fled Russia and asked for asylum in France.

Savelyev had been serving 7.5 years for drug trafficking. He is now wanted in Russia for “illegal access to computer information”.

On Wednesday, the head of the prison service in the Saratov region, Anton Yefarkin, said 18 officials had been fired and 11 had faced “the strictest” disciplinary measures.

Five criminal cases have been opened in connection to the videos, he said.

“We are doing everything to work things out and draw the appropriate conclusions,” Yefarkin told regional state television.

“I am sure that in the future this will not repeat itself,” he said.

The Kremlin has previously called for the case to be investigated.

At the end of last month, Moscow placed prison whistleblower Saveleyev on a wanted list.

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During his prison term, he worked as an IT maintenance officer, earning access to the prison’s internal server and those of other jails, where he found several videos.

He saved them on a USB stick that he hid near the prison exit.

After NGO Gulagu.net published the videos of the abuse, the head of the jail, where prisoners needing medical attention for tuberculosis are held, was sacked, along with three regional prison officials.

Russia’s vast prison system has long been an arena of torture and sexual violence inflicted on inmates, monitors say, but the videos have cast new light on abuses.

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