Russian prison authorities in the city of St. Petersburg sent Special Forces police units into a jail during a search on Wednesday, insisting they were there only to maintain order during the operation, which they said passed off peacefully.
"No incidents took place during this planned search," a prison service source said.
Commandos from the "Typhoon" police special forces unit were sent into the Obukhovo Prison No.6 to undertake a "large-scale special operation," in conjunction with around 100 prison service staff from other regions, local internet news portal fontanka.ru reported earlier.
"The operation...is a planned event - a general search across the whole prison colony," the prison service said. "The special forces have been sent in just to maintain order and safety of staff taking part in the search. They will not themselves be taking part in the search operation."
Prosecutor's office representatives and social commission observers were also present, the prison service said.
Media reports claim the prison has been a hotbed of unrest since the winter and spring of this year, when a large number of prisoners from the Pskov, Arkhangelsk and Karelia were moved there and refused to cooperate with the administration. The inmates have become known as "black suits" [as in playing cards] as opposed to the "red suits" who cooperate with the prison authorities. The troublemakers consist of roughly 600 of the jail's 1,500 inmates.
One inmate died in a hanging incident in summer 2012, although he was only serving a one-year sentence, while another threw himself out of a window but survived. A third man, who had cooperated with the authorities, was battered to death. A body was dumped outside the gates of the prison on August 10 wrapped in a blanket, on the same day an escape attempt was thwarted.
A detachment from the Typhoon unit has begun patrolling the area around the prison since June, but has not previously entered it. Their main task has been to stop attempts to throw packets of drugs into the jail.
Prison service officials have previously opposed the special forces going into the jail, fearing prisoners would slash their veins in protest, as has happened in other Russian jails.