Vener Mardamshin

Torture in Russia Reaching Pandemic Proportions

In 2001, during the Second Chechen War in Russia (1999-2009), I was finishing my book The Perversion of Knowledge. That war started on August 26, 1999, ten days after Vladimir Putin, at the time FSB (State Security Service, a successor of the KGB) Director, became Russian President, and after a series of mysterious apartment building bombings in Russia. The authorities blamed Chechen terrorists for these crimes, although it is quite possible that the explosions were organized by the FSB. In my book, following the reports from Chechnya by Anna Politkovskaya, the courageous anti-Putin journalist assassinated later in 2006 in Moscow, I wrote about the behavior of young FSB officers in the rebellious Chechnya (p. 79):

Without any hesitation, twenty-year-old FSB lieutenants attach electrodes to the hands of a sixty-year-old Chechen woman and increase the current step by step because she does not “dance” enthusiastically; that is, in their opinion, her convulsions are not strong enough. Her only “guilt” is that she is a Chechen civilian who has been kidnapped by the Russian military for ransom. Someday these young officers will return to Moscow and other Russian cities. They have acquired good practical knowledge of how control people.

Unfortunately, 16 years later I need to report that torture has become a common everyday method the Russian “siloviki” (literally “force structures”)—FSIN, police, FSB and other security services—use to extract a “confession” from a detained or arrested person. Of course, there is nothing new in this practice, torture of the arrestees was widely used by the Russian police in the 2000s, but nowadays it has become pandemic, particularly within FSIN, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia.

On March 7, 2017, 34-year-old Lt. Colonel Nikolai Chernov, who served in the FSIN Directorate (UFSIN) for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region (the region around St. Petersburg is still called after Vladimir Lenin), died in the hospital. This was a result of an assassination attempt on his life on March 2, when at least six shots were fired at him while he was was sitting in a parked car.

Two days before his death, on March 5, two suspects were arrested, the alleged killer and the St. Petersburg UFSIN Deputy Head Sergei Moiseenko. Apparently, Lt. Colonel Chernov supervised the construction of the new St. Petersburh prison “Kresty-2”, while Moiseenko supervised all FSIN construction sites within St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. As the Prosecutor’s Office stated, according to the investigation, Moiseyenko, “as a result of a long conflict with Chernov”, decided to kill him, for which he hired his friend, a man with previous convictions, Sabir Sadykov. According to the press reports, Chernov might have discovered that 12 million rubles of 15 million funded for constructing a road to “Kresty-2” was stolen by his superiors.

FSIN is the organization responsible for security and maintenance of Russian prison camps and prisons, it is the successor of the GULAG (Interior Ministry’s Directorate in Charge of Labor Camps) of Stalin’s time, and from 2006 on, it has been under the Russian Ministry of Justice. The FSIN Director and his six deputies are appointed by President Vladimir Putin personally.

Currently, the Russian news sites are overwhelmed by reports about torture of inmates in many prison camps (colonies) by the members of FSIN administration. The recent case of Ildar Dadin, who managed to smuggle out a letter with a description of torture he was subjected in the Correction Colony IK-7 he was put in after conviction, became the most famous.

In 2015, 33-year-old Dadin was sentenced to a 3-year imprisonment after he was arrested several times for a peaceful “single-picket” protest. He was standing alone holding a sign, twice a sign protesting against the war in Ukraine, once in support of a political prisoner, the Ukrainian officer Nadiya Savchenko kidnapped by the Russians, and once protesting the arrest of another protester. Dadin was the first person convicted under the just-introduced infamous Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code that imposes imprisonment for “repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picketing.”

Although some other prisoners also made statements about beatings and torture on a large scale in the same colony, its administration denied all accusations and officially accused Dadin of lying. However, after an enormous publicity of his case, Dadin was released from the camp after Russia’s Supreme Court annulled his sentence because of procedural violations. However, criminal cases were opened against at least two other prisoners who testified about the torture in that colony.

On March 10, 2017, the released Dadin demonstrated again in front of the FSIN headquarters in Moscow. He had a poster with a demand to fire FSIN officials responsible for tortures in the IK-7: head of the FSIN Directorate of Karelia Alexander Terekh, his deputy Alexei Fedotov, and head of the IR-7 Sergei Kossiev. Police detained Dadin for a short time.

Torture is used in many prison camps. For instance, human rights activists reported on the torture in the Correction Colony IK-5. As the prisoner Yevgeny Gorevanov told them, when in January 2016 he was brought to the colony, under torture he was forced to sign a consent that psychotropic drugs could be admitted to him and physical force could be used against him. Members of the colony staff stripped him naked, buried him in the snow, poured cold water on him and kicked him, demanding he give his consent.

Unable to withstand, Gorevanov signed all the papers and, as soon as he was left alone, stuck a broken spoon into his stomach. In the medical unit, he was kept tied to the bed for three days, and was not allowed to go to a restroom, therefore lying in his urine and feces. Subsequently, Gorevanov had a heart attack, and he was urgently sent to a prison hospital, where the doctors diagnosed internal bleeding and treated him. Later he was returned to the same colony. The court refused to consider a complaint submitted by Gorevanov’s lawyer against those officers who conducted the torture.

However, Gorevanov was lucky since a placement in a prison hospital does not mean that the prisoner will receive medical help. For instance, in January 2017 a case was opened against the staffs of the  Correction Camp IK-1 in the Kurgan Region and a prison hospital of that area. Accoring to the investigation, the staffs of the camp and hospital did not provide the necessary medical care to a prisoner, the 24-year-old Ruslan Sayfutdinov, with chronic corosive gastritis and chronic duodenitis. As a result, on January 7, Sayfutdinov died in the intensive care unit 11 days before his release. The inmates of the prisoner testified that the staff of the colony beat Sayfutdinov and told him that “he will not get out alive from the colony, since he is an enemy of the state and is not needed at liberty.” Five days after the death of Sayfutdinov, another prisoner committed suicide in the same prison medical facility.

The treatment of prisoners in facilities for criminals sentenced to life imprisonment, the so-called UPLS (“facility for life imprisonment”), is especially sadistic. Here is an exerpt from an official complaint of a lawyer of one of such prisoners at the Facility IT-1:

The convict [Sergei] Tarkan told me that the PLS is a sadistic sect led by the head of the UPLS Kanayev. Upon the arrival of a new convict in the UPLS, he must pass through beatings by the colony’s staff till he refuses to recognize himself as a human being and admits to being an animal. During beatings and torture prisoners need to thank [the torturers] with the words, “thank you very much, citizen Chief.”

Convicts in the colony are starved to the extend of fainting from hunger and exhaustion, while the food is stolen by the colony’s employees. There is no water, you can not wash yourself, you do not have warm clothing, you are forced to stay in summer clothes in the winter, which causes permanent frostbite in the convicts and, as a result, suppuration.

There are 140 inmates in the colony sentenced to life imprisonment. As a result of constant beatings, 70% of them are crippled. These 70% of convicts have limb fractures, spinal injuries, broken ribs, and internal organ injuries.

My client names six convicts who were mutilated literally before his eyes […] To the last one, [Kolyagin], Major Simakov broke his spine, and now Kolyagin’s cellmates are carring him in their arms, while sadists from the colony staff amuse themselves by saying “the beaten are carrying the unbitten.”

The convicted Tarkan has tuberculosis. However, he not only remains untreated, but is also forced to follow a standard routine, i.e. he is starving and cold, which makes his disease progress. His food, even tea, is stolen by the colony’s employees. […] Tarkan is threatened with murder and conditions for the progress of his desease are intentionally created. An employee of the prosecutor’s office Mokshanov came to Tarkan and even before asking him about anything, reminded him that Tarkan himself is a murderer and told him that he gets what he deserves.

The UFSIN Directorate of the Republic of Mordovia [a traditional location for camps] is certainly aware of all what is going on, since about a year ago, after another murder in the colony by the employee Trofimov, who liked to strangle convicts while looking at their faces, was taken away for sadistic behavior. However, Trofimov was simply transferred to Colony IK-5, where he was promoted to a higher position.

 [Another] convict Kitaev explained that during the time of serving the sentence in the IK-1 […], he was beaten 5-6 times by the employee of the colony Simakov Sergey […] together with the other employees unknown to him. On August 19, 2010, Simakov, during the next beating, struck his spine with a truncheon, resulting in the paralysis of Kitaev’s legs. Since 2010 he is disabled and walks on crutches. Prior to this case, Simakov had placed Kitaev in the SHIZO [“shtrafnoi izolyator” or “penalty facility”, a prison inside the colony] cell stripped to his underpants during the winter, with an open window for 12 hours. After this Simakov ordered Kitaev moved to another SHIZO cell, where Kitaev was kept for 15 days without a mattress. Once Simakov instructed to strike Kitaev 5 times with a truncheon and watched the scene like a slave-owner watching a punishment of a slave. […] Kitaev also witnessed the beating of [the convict] Kolyagin by Simakov, after which Kolyagin became a bedridden invalid. Kitaev explained that a week before my arrival, through threats and psychological pressure he was forced by the UFSIN employees to write a statement, according to which he has no claims on anyone for his disability.

For my part, I can confirm that Kitaev came to see me leaning on a cane […]

Of course, not every FSIN’s correction colony has become a sadistic torture place. However, every colony has its internal prison called SHIZO with extremely harsh conditions and lowered rations, which the administration of the colony can put a prisoner into for any alleged violation of the colony rules. In fact, this a method of torture. If the prisoner, in the administration’s opinion, does not “correct” his behavior after several placements to the SHIZO, the colony administration can appeal to the local court with a request to transfer the prisoner to a prison. A prisoner could be transferred from the colony to an internal punishment prison for up to three years. There are approximately ten punishment prisons in current Russia, and, in human rights activists’ opinion, conditions in all of them are torturous.

Hardened criminals are not the only ones sent to punishiment prisons. Boris Stomakhin, a political prisoner who was arrested in 2012 and then sentenced to 7-years imprisonment for his anti-Putin articles on the Internet (this was his second term, for the first time he was sentenced on a similar charge and imprisoned from 2006 to 2011) will be transferred soon from the colony IK-10 in Perm Region to a punishment prison. Previously, he has been placed in SHIZO several times for such “crimes” as “a rude conversation with a FSIN operative.” Stomakhinhas been an invalid since 2006, when he tried to escape arrest and fell from the fourth floor. All this happens despite wide international publicity of his case.

Interestingly, on March 9, 2017, President Vladimir Putin fired 8 MVD (Interior Ministry) generals and two prosecutors. Among the generals, there were three high-level FSIN functionaries. Evidently, even Putin feels that there are serious problems in FSIN.

But, clearly, the whole FSIN system, in which officers can solve their working disputes by hiring killers and behave as sadistic executioners, has turned into essentially an organized crime institution. In the meantime, on December 28, 2016, President Putin signed a law that widens the opportunity of the use of force, including firearms, against prisoners. The opposition calls this law “the law of sadists.”

But FSIN is only one example of corruption within the “siloviks.” The police are increasingly accused of torture. Here is a recent example of the torture of a detained woman with an electric shocker (all citations in this article were made by myself):

The official website of the Moscow Region Office of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation informs that a criminal case was filed in the city of Mytishchi near Moscow against two local police officers who tortured a woman with an electric shocker to get a confession. […] On January 21, 2015, two policemen interrogated a 27-year-old detainee on suspicion of theft. After not having heard information they wanted, the policemen put a package on the woman’s head and started torturing her with an electric shock. Investigators note that the victim received 35 electrical discharges.

I could not find any information if these policemen were punished, but here is another recent case. In October 2016, a court in the city of Kazan (the capital of Tatarstan, an autonomic republic within Russia) sentenced the policeman Aidar Salmanov “to 5 years of imprisonment, but on probation, and forbade him to work in law enforcement agencies for the same period.” Earlier that year, on February 8, 2016, junior police lieutenant Salmanov “held a conversation” with a man whom he suspected of stealing. After the arrestee denied his involvement in the crime, Samanov 21 times applied the electric shocks to the man.

Another victim of torturer was not so lucky. In December 2016, the Neftekamsk city court arrested a local resident Vener Mardamshin, who had previously complained to human rights activists about the torture he had been subjected by policemen who tried to extract a confession of an assault on a woman from him. The city of Neftekamsk is located in the Bashkorostan, a more autonomous republic within Russia. The same day another man, who saw Mardamshin with injuries inflicted by police, was also arrested. The torture of Mardamshin was confirmed by experts of the Center for Forensic Examinations and Studies.

On November 10, 2016, Mardamshin, the father of three children, an employee of the security service of one of the commercial firms, was unexpectedly detained by policemen right next to his house. Before that, Vener brought his wife to the local hospital for medical procedures, and then took his youngest son to school and was on his way home. Four men came up to him, pushed him by force into their car, cuffed him and put a bag on his head. They brought him to an unidentified building; later lawyers found out that it was one of police stations.

Mardamashin recalled: “I was immediately put on my knees first, then my legs crossed in front of me, tightened with a rope, over my shoulders, handcuffed and tightened. In this position, they began beating me with truncheons and used an electric shocker over my head, legs, hands. Half an hour after I was hung up, I was lowered to the floor and they started talking to me. One of the men asked me: “Do you understand who you are dealing with?”

Yevgeny Litvinov, one of the lawyers involved in the case, added:

We were shocked to learn the details of these tortures and harassment. He was tortured with an electric shocker, then hung on a stick placed between two tables; the stick was passed between the handcuffs and legs. And they continued to use the shocker. All that time they demanded [Mardamshin] to confess to the allegedly committed crimes. It should be mentioned that after the number of strokes by an electric shocker exceeds a dozen, the person basically cannot orient in space and does not understand anything. Vener said that he repeatedly lost consciousness, did not understand what was going on and only felt pain, realizing that he was still alive … The police apparently did not understand what they were doing, because the “interrogation” was held on Police Day, they constantly received congratulations on the phones and consumed alcohol.

The torture ceased only when the police realized that Mardamshin was not able to sign any confessions, even if he had agreed. According to Litvinov, “they suggested to Mardamshin that he invite someone from among his acquaintance to take on these crimes. Vener agreed to see at least call someone. A friend of his, called by the policemen, came to see Vener, flatly refused to sign any paper and managed to somehow leave the police station.”

The next day, as Mardamshin said, another police officer came into the office and asked him to write an explanatory note that he had no complaints against the police. “This policeman told me that the employees who tortured me ‘went too far’ and that it was time for them to quit.” Mardamshin signed the required false explanatory paper and was released.

Mardamashin’s wife Gulnaz told the journalists:

When I saw Vener, I got hysterical. All his clothes were covered with blood. He could not walk, he could not feel his feet; he was brought in by our acquaintances who moved him to an ambulance, which I called,  in their arms. In the hospital, he showed what had been done to his legs, and I was horrified: they were all burned by the electric shocker! Only on one foot our eight-year-old son later counted 64 marks from an electric shocker (Vener told him that these are traces of injections). There were similar burns on the other leg, on his hands, on his head. Vener said that they [policemen] then tore out his scorched hair, trying to get rid of the traces. He told me that the most unbearable was when they beat the pads of his fingers … I, of course, watched movies as German fascists scoffed at our people, but I could not imagine that my husband would be subjected to the similar treatment. How could he endure all this?! He went through all the torments of hell, but he did not incriminate himself. […]

In the [local] hospital, I could not get normal medical care for Vener, they did not care. His body had already started to swell and the condition worsened. I asked him to be transported to the hospital in Ufa [the capital of the Bashkorostan], called the hotline at the Ministry of Health of the republic, but everything was to no avail. Then I hired a private ambulance from Ufa with a paramedic staff at my own expense and transported him to a hospital in the capital. There was a consultation of doctors, later they told me that his kidneys started stopping working because all his muscles were pulled with ropes during the torture. And he was transferred for three whole days in intensive care.

Mardamashin spent 27 days in the hospital. On December 21, he was arrested on the charge of allegedly stealing a car. Nine days later he was released and a case was opened against the head of investigation department that kidnapped and tortured Mardamashin.

The last investigative report by Moscow journalist Olga Bobrova is even more sickening than the Mardamashin story, it is entitled “A crowbar and other instruments of inquiry: How to turn a victim of torture into a defendant.” It describes what happened to Mardiros Demerchyan and his family after he was demanded payment for his work at the Olympic construction site for the future 2014 Games in Sochi. Mardiros is an Armenian, his wife Lyudmila is a Russian, and they live with their four children in the village of Vesyoloe, which, ironically, in Russian means “Cheerful.”

Bobrova writes:

The Mardiros family has recently really slumped. In their small house […] now there is not even wallpaper: the old one became wet, and it had to be ripped off since the roof leaked. They don’t have enough money to buy the new wallpaper. “It’s damp,” says Lyudmila, “Now we heat the stove, without it it’s damp.”

After what happened to him, Mardiros cannot work. He cannot go to another region for a medical treatment either because he is under a written undertaking not to leave the region.

Macaroni [pasta], that’s what keeps the family afloat. One can buy macaroni inexpensively.

“I want to provide my children with normal life. Years go by, but I barely make it. In fact, I’m not making it at all,” says Mardiros. “Every day, my debts are getting bigger and bigger. I do not know how I will pay out them.” In 2013, when Mardiros took a job at the Olympic construction site, the prospects ahead seemed bright. In Sochi, fat times came, everyone thought.

But soon after Mardiros started working at the construction site, he, like other workers, stopped being paid. Several times he went to his superiors to ask for his salary, but soon he was fired without payment.

Suddenly, on June 12, Demerchyan, along with his brother-in-law, who was also fired, were invited to the construction site. “The foreman called, he said: “Come, we must see each other.” We thought that he would probably give us our salary now, let’s go.” When the builders arrived at the facility, they were detained by the policemen of the local police station “Blinovo.” At first, the policemen took the two men to a warehouse located next to the station, and then to the station itself. The whole day the police conducted an inquiry about 2,300 meters of cable allegedly stolen from the construction site. Of the “tools of inquiry” Demerchyan well remembered boxing gloves. And also a crowbar, covered with red, fireproof paint.”One [policeman] said: “Bring a crowbar.” I asked them, “Why do you need a crowbar? Are you going to beat me up with the crowbar? “

But the human cruelty is more inventive than what he, a simple worker, could have imagined. [The policemen used the crowbar for raping Demerchyan].

As a result of the “operative-search activities,” [i.e. torture] which lasted about 20 hours, Demerchyan was taken in an ambulance to the neurosurgical department of the local hospital No. 4. Doctor Toporov, who saw in what condition Mardiros was brought to the hospital, later testified in court that Mardiros was holding a basin full of vomit.

Doctors diagnosed (this is recorded in the medical chart): acute post-traumatic pancreatitis, dyspepsia (i.e., damage to the stomach), and consequences of a concussion. Two teeth had been knocked out, two more, broken.

And traumatic fissure of the rectum.

In fact, Mardiros was turned into an invalid that day. […]

Demerchyan was forced to sign a “confession.” His brother-in-law then got off with a fine of 1,000 rubles for the allegedly resisting the policemen.

The next day Demerchyan, with the help of his relatives, wrote to the Investigative Committee a statement about the torture. No one hardly expected such a turn of events.

Of course, no criminal case against the operatives followed. Everything ended in at the pre-investigation checking. The investigator spent nine minutes inspecting the Blinovo police station, while the warehouse […] was not inspected. Camera video tapes were not taken from the police station. The investigator accepted the explanation that on that day there was simply no light in the station. But the same investigator, who received Demerchyan’s complaint about the torture, opened another case, now against Mardiros himself (under Part 1 of Article 306 of the Russian Criminal Code), “a knowingly false report.” After this, the Demerchyans appealed for help to “Public Verdict“, an organization that helps victims of torture.

By February [2014], the case came to court in the Adler Region. In court, Aleksandr Kislyar, head of the Blinovo police station, insisted that there could not have been a crowbar at the station (and, of course, they did not find the crowbar). The foreman Pashyan claimed that Demerchyan had no teeth for a long time before going to the police. The court forbade the defense and the accused to examine the materials of the case. […]  Judge Yakimenko delivered Demerchyan a conviction, ruling 300 hours of public works. Demerchyan listened to the verdict while sitting, he could not stand up.

The “Public Verdict” lawyers submitted an appeal against this decision to the Krasnodar regional court. “The sentence of the Adler court will lead to a chain reaction in the cases of torture,” the lawyer Popkov told the judge trying to appeal to his civic feelings. The arguments of the defense were so convincing that even the prosecutor spoke in the debate in favor of the cancellation of the verdict due to the gross violation of the defendant’s rights. The verdict was canceled, and the case was returned to be investigated again. […]

Since investigation of the people who tortured Demerchan was not acceptable for the participants in the case, the investigation simply revised the materials of the previous case. To the alleged “false report”, the alleged stealing of 2,300 meters of the cable was added as the reason of Demerchyan’s torture.

By the summer of 2016, the new case came to court.

By mentioning the cable theft, the investigation made absurd accusations against Mardiros, [since]  police received no complaints about the theft. […] In addition, the two doctors who, according to the materials of the case supposedly had testified that “no physical damage” to Demerchyan had been done, in the court did not recognize their own signatures under the interrogation protocols [i.e., the protocols and signatures were falsified].

Dr. Krymova, deputy head of the Adler dental clinic, who examined Mardiros “because the policemen had knocked out his teeth in the police station”, testified at the trial that she had never been interviewed by the investigator.

The prosecutor tried to push Dr. Toporov, who had admitted Demerchyan with a basin to the hospital, to say that Demerchyan was vomiting because the car he came to the hospital in was jolting. However, the doctor strongly resisted: the vomiting was a result of concussion.

Demerchan’s lawyers presented a calculation in the court: 2,300 meters of the cable that Mardiros, according to prosecution, stole by wrapping it around his body, would have weight about 500 kilograms. […]

On December 14, 2016, at a regular meeting on Demerchyan’s case, the Muscovite Nikolai Krasko, allegedly the general director of the company “Dauria Stroi” registered in the Seychelles, was questioned […] during a video conference. The prosecution presented him as the victim in the theft of the cable.

However, Krasko said that he had nothing to do with the company “Dauria Stroi”, he did not register it and did not participate in its meetings since he was working in Moscow distributing ads. The policemen who came to Moscow from Sochi, explained to him the situation with the theft. He agreed to acknowledge himself the victim because “the policemen told me to.” They did not threaten him, they only said that they would take him to a court in Sochi. And he needed to get back [to Moscow] by himself.

In 2014, a passport was stolen from Krasko. [As a result], in addition to “Dauria Stroi”, he subsequently appeared to be listed as the general director of 66 other firms.

The Olympic facility the “House for Volunteers”, on whose construction Demerchyan worked, has never been finished and it is currently for sale.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has formally presented a complaint regarding the Demerchyan case. The court demands that Russia explain the origin of Demerchyan’s injuries and submit an hourly report on what happened to him from the moment of his detention. […]

The next court hearing in the Mardiros Demerchyan’s case is scheduled for March 9, 2016.

According to the “Public Verdict”, the threat to open a case against the victim of police torture “for a false denunciation” in response to a report about torture in the police is quite common. However, Demerchan’s case is first one in which the victim of torture was prosecuted and brought to trial.

Here is another case from the city of Anapa near Sochi:

Artem Ponomarchuk, Aram Arustamyan and the brothers Erik and Karen Yengoyanov were detained on suspicion of committing a crime in December 2015. One of the detainees, Arustamyan, was taken to one of police offices, where a gas mask was put on his head, then he was pushed and fell to the floor. The policmen put a chair on the detainee, so he could not move. After that the policemen attached electrodes to Arustamyan’s feet and began torturing him by electrical current. Simultaneously, the policemen beat the detainee on the head. Unable to withstand the torment, Arustamyan wrote a “voluntary surrender” statement dictated by the torturers.

As they reported to the human rights activists, the other three detainees were also tortured.

If Mardiros Demerchyan is eventually sentenced, the fact that he was turned into an invalid won’t save him from punishment. On January 10, 2017, the 70-year-old tatar Tagir Khasanov, the authoritative member of the Islamic community of the city of Nizhny Novgorod, sentenced to 5 years and 1 month of imprisonment in a fabricated case of assistance to terrorism, was sent to a colony in the Samara region. While in prison during the investigation, Khasanov became paralyzed and was diagnosed with cancer. The FSIN (Federal Penitentiary Service) officers decided to transport the paralyzed Khasanov to the colony on stretchers. Olga Sadovskaya, deputy chairman of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, who had an appointment with Khasanov in prison before he was transported, said: “He told me that he does not want to apply [for help], thank you very much, ‘everything is fine.’ I got the impression that he was just going to die and he did not need anything else.”

Stanislav Markelov lies dead in Moscow street

The other “siloviki” services are not better or even worse in extraction of “confessions” from detainees than the police. Apparently, FSB operatives prefer to use electrical current torture. Just recently, Andrei Zakhtei, who was arrested by FSB operatives in the Crimea in December 2016 on the suspicion of that he was a Ukrainian terrorist, stated that FSB officers tortured him with electrical current by attaching electrodes to his legs, buttocks and genitals, and demanding to admit guilt. He also had traces of handcuffs on his hands, which were pulled together on the wrists. During the torture there was a sack on his head, so he could not see the faces of the torturers.  Similar torture was applied to Yevgeny Popov, a Ukrainian officer detained along with Zakhtei. A threat of a rape or a real rape with various objects also work well for an extraction of “confessions” by FSB operatives.

FSB operatives are using not only direct physical torture. It’s enough to deprive a sick detainee of medical help and medical drugs he needs to “soften” him. This is exactly what happened to Nikita Belykh, ex-governor of the Kirov Region, arrested by FSB operatives on June 24, 2016 on the charge of “accepting a bribe of 400,000 euros.” The 41-year-old Belykh has been a critic of the Kremlin and is a former leader of an opposition party, the Union of Rightist Forces, which previously was led by Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in 2015. Belykh and his lawyer denied that Belykh accepted the money.

Belykh was kept without interrogation and medical help in the infamous Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. In November 2016, the press reported that, according to a source in Putin’s close circle, the detention of Belykh in the investigation prison could have been changed to house arrest if he testifies against Alexei Navalny, a constant critic of corruption in Putin’s circle. If this offer was in fact made, Belykh refused because he continued to remain in Lefortovo and no medical help was provided to him.

As the journalist Vera Chelishcheva, who was allowed to interview Belykh in prison, wrote, in six months “Belykh began looking like an invalid. Because he has artificial knee joints, he has problems with blood vessels, and the right leg, which is swollen, is almost paralyzed, and the politician can hardly move.” Only on March 7, 2017, his lawyer was allowed to provide Belykh with medical drugs. However, this is an old method of “softening” an arrestee. In the 1970s, the KGB applied this method to the arrested political dissidents, I remember it on the example of my friends.

Sometimes in opening a case against a victim of police torture both the police and the FSB are interested.

There is no guarantee even for lawyers not to be beaten up by the police while representing clients. On February 1, 2017, two policemen at the police station in the Moscow suburb Lyubertsy beat up three lawyers (one of them was a woman), striking blows to their heads, stomachs, hands and feet. The lawyers represented the “For Human Rights” group and arrived to meet their two clients detained during the previous night on false accusations.

The lawyers immediately recognized traces of beatings on the face of one of the detainees, who told them that he was forced to confess to an attack on somebody. The lawyers photographed the detainee, after which the policemen attacked them. The lawyers refused to leave the station and called for an ambulance.

But they were lucky. On January 19, 2017, a memorial march took place in Moscow in the memory of the 34-year-old human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and 26-year-old journalist trainee Anastasiya Baburova who were shot to death by Russian nationalists on January 19, 2009 in the center of Moscow. At the time, Markelov was defending Chechens opposed to the Russian regime. Later the killers, members of the Neo-Nazi “Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists”, two people were sentenced. Nikita Tikhonov to live imprisonment and Yevgeniya Khasis to 18-years imprisonment in a prison camp. During the last Markelov/Baburina march, seven participants were arrested by the police.