The Horrors of Russian Prison Camps
Several scandals have broken out in Russian penitentiaries. On May 2, two prison guards were arrested in the Saratov Region and charged with beating an inmate to death. That same day, an inmate died of poisoning in the Sakhalin Region. Human rights activists also say juvenile offenders have gone on hunger strike at a penitentiary in Ryazan.
On April 25, a man serving six years for robbery at a penitentiary in Engels in the Saratov Region was placed in a maximum security cell for violating prison regulations. Prison guards discovered his body on April 27. A doctor and a nurse tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him.
A high-ranking investigator in Engels told Moskovskiye Novosti that prison guards had handcuffed the inmate and beaten him with a rubber baton. Two officials suspected of abusing their positions have been arrested.
Lev Ponomaryov, executive director of the movement For
Human Rights, said systematic beatings were a tragic feature of Russian prison life. He said dozens of penitentiaries around the country resembled concentration camps. Inmates are regularly beaten and raped. In some cases, they are set upon by dogs. Ponomaryov said new inmates get beaten as a preemptive measure so that they don’t dare violate prison regulations. The situation has not changed in the last 10 years, he noted.
Human rights activists claim that 1,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike at a Ryazan penitentiary for teenage girls under 18. The girls want their former prison head and are threatening to slash their wrists if their demand is not met. On April 27, a mass disturbance broke out. And, on May 2, the inmates refused to eat.
Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said a special commission had been established to investigate the situation in Ryazan. Astakhov promised to look into the incident.
The Ryazan division of the Federal Penitentiary Service has denied reports of a hunger strike. Its officials said journalists from Ryazan had visited the prison facility and had found it working as usual.
On April 23, four inmates poisoned themselves at a penitentiary in the Sakhalin Region in Russia’s Far East, after injecting themselves with the highly toxic copper sulfate. One of them died. Investigators say the local division of the Federal Penitentiary Service failed to promptly notify the police, prosecutors or investigators about the incident.
Kremlin Rallies Duma Votes for Medvedev’s Appointment as Prime Minister
The Kremlin-backed candidate for prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, expects to rally 300 Duma votes, which means opposition deputies need to be persuaded to join United Russia and the LDPR.
The combined votes of United Russia and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s LDPR party add up to 294, which means six more are needed to gain a qualifying majority of 300. A Just Russia source told Izvestia that 15 party members had been invited to the Kremlin for one-on-one conferences.
“They were told plainly that Medvedev needed 300 votes and they tried to convince them to support him,” he said, citing several names. “Oleg Mikheyev is a business owner. Businessmen often have weak points. Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition activist, was promised access to TV airtime and other political benefits,” another source said.
“Various offers have been made, stopping just short of ministerial and gubernatorial posts,” the source added. Someone was offered guaranteed inclusion onto United Russia’s next election ticket.
Although Gudkov could not be reached for comment, his father, Gennady, also a Just Russia deputy, admitted they had attended an informal meeting with a Kremlin official, but that they had discussed “other issues.”
Mikheyev denied the rumor. Alexander Ageyev, who reportedly visited the Kremlin, declined to comment, and Vladimir Mashkarin could not be contacted by phone.
On May 7 and 8, Medvedev will meet with parliamentary parties. “If we have already made up our minds, why meet with him at all?” asked Anton Belyakov, who had been reportedly invited to the Kremlin. “We could propose a political deal, say, vote for Medvedev in exchange for one third of ministerial posts.” It was after he made this statement at a party meeting that “some hotheads” decided that he was in talks with the Kremlin, Belyakov explained. At the same time, the party leaders did mention during the meeting that some people had been invited for conferences with Kremlin officials, but they did not name names, he said.
Two A Just Russia deputies admitted they would support Medvedev, Alexei Mitrofanov and Igor Zotov, who is resurrecting the Pensioners’ Party. “We won’t be able to make a difference anyway. So why quarrel with the new prime minister?” Mitrofanov said. “Who will appreciate a protest vote? The Bolotnaya Square mob? That’s all long forgotten.” However, he denied having been summoned to the Kremlin. “They have not had any conferences with me for years,” he said.
A Communist Party source said some members would vote for Medvedev if they were not so “afraid of Gennady Zyuganov’s anger.” Another source has “heard rumors” about some of his fellow communists having been summoned to the Kremlin and asked to support Medvedev, but even so, no more than two or three members are likely to support his appointment. This situation could in fact be interpreted as a test of party loyalty.
Police Officer Found Strangled in His Car
A police officer was strangled to death by a seatbelt of his car in the city of Troitsk, near Moscow. The officer’s body was found by passers by at about 2 pm in a Toyota Camry.
Judging by the traces found on the body, 33-year-old police captain Dmitry Kulapin was strangled. Presumably, the murderer sat in the back seat and used a seat belt to strangle Kulapin while the victim was behind the wheel. No traces of car burglary have been found, meaning that most likely Kulapin knew the killer. The police did not find any vehicle registration paperwork on the murdered officer, and at the time the newspaper went to print, it was still unknown who owns the car. The investigative unit No. 4, where Kulapin worked, deals with criminal gangs operating in the Moscow Region.
Dmitry Kulapin was a well known figure in Troitsk. He started his career as a detective, specializing in business crimes. In 2008, he was decorated by a police medal of honor for excellent service. Kulapin was recently promoted and transferred to the police headquarters.
However, allegedly Kulapin was also involved in criminal activities. Specifically, some media reports implicated Kulapin in the illegal takeover of a company in Yaroslavl, suggesting that he was acting in collusion with organized crime leaders. Also, a businessman who had become a victim of racketeering filed a complaint to the President Medvedev against Kulapin, accusing him of covering up for criminals.
The police is expected to focus the investigation on Kulapin’s criminal contacts, as it is highly unlikely that the officer was killed during the course of a robbery. Investigators will also look into the possibility that Kulapin was murdered by someone who had suffered from his activities.
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