20:55 GMT30 October 2020
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    Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving a 20-year prison term in the United States' Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in New Jersey, said he is suffering from inhumane detention conditions and "trying to hold back with the last of [his] strength."

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The pilot, who was captured in Liberia in 2010 over his alleged involvement in illegal drug trafficking into the United States and sentenced by US authorities in 2011, has categorically and repeatedly denied the heinous allegations against him regarding his role in the crime and appealed for a pardon. However, he is still living in atrocious conditions, which are, by his own account, worse than those in Soviet-era Gulag forced labor camps.

    Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko
    © Photo : provided by Konstantin Yaroshenko's attorney
    In a letter to Sputnik, Yaroshenko described his sufferings, as well as his horrid and worsening detention conditions, including the lack of even the most basic medical care for his deteriorating health, as well as various kinds of religious and anti-Russia discrimination and deliberate provocations by jail officers.

    Worsening Detention Conditions

    "The United States blatantly violates international laws and human rights, not to mention basic detainees’ rights, stipulated in the international convention. The Gulag is innocent childish shenanigans in comparison to what US authorities do to their own nationals, as well as the other states’ citizens [in jail]," Yaroshenko said.

    Yaroshenko lamented about the overall deterioration of the conditions in the jail in which he is serving his term.

    "My detention conditions are only deteriorating. [The authorities] tighten the screws. I mean the overall conditions in the jail," Yaroshenko said.

    The pilot also protested the lack of adequate food provided to the detainees in his jail.

    "The food, both lunch and dinner, is four thin slices of bread, two very thin slices of sausage … a thin slice of a strange cheese flavored substance with and a small pack of powered drink mix … On the first day, they gave me a rotten sausage," he elaborated.

    In the US jail, one can only purchase a limited number of very expensive foods in the prison shop once a week, Yaroshenko continued. Also, sending parcels with food or medicines to prisoners is prohibited.

    "It is impossible to eat the food from the local cafeteria. Likewise, it is difficult to make your own food, because there are only 3 microwave ovens, which are allowed to be used only at certain times, in a building in which 350 people live," he added.

    Yaroshenko pointed out that he also lacked leisure activities at jail.

    "They do not allow me to go outside, despite international norms stipulating that they must allow me to spend one hour in fresh air," Yaroshenko continued.

    The US nationals in the jail have their routine, they are within a culture familiar to them, as they have access to local TV, radio, newspapers, books and various rehabilitation and educational programs, including those which allow them to reduce their jail terms by one year and more, Yaroshenko stressed.

    "I have not been to a Russian jail. But I am sure, that [the level of respect for] rights and freedoms is significantly higher there. And that the jail officers treat those detained not like animals, but like humans," the jailed pilot added.

    Yaroshenko concluded by comparing himself to "a hunted animal caught and put in a cage."

    Lack of Medical Assistance

    "The attitude to the US citizens is absolutely different. [The jail authorities] take them to hospital, they undergo surgeries worth $0.5 million etc. And nothing is done to me," Yaroshenko said, adding that it was impossible to seek medical assistance in the US jail or purchase medicines in the prison shop.

    The Russian pilot first voiced his health issues in early 2014, but the administration of New Jersey’s Fort Dix prison allowed for a health check only after numerous requests by his lawyers and Russian authorities.

    Yaroshenko reminded that he had been prescribed a surgery for his urology condition by a hospital doctor and had had a microinfarct. Treatment has been rejected for both of the conditions by the jail authorities who had not recognized Yaroshenko’s health problems.

    "The medical assistance necessary to improve my endangered health is not being provided to me. The jail administration explains this to multiple requests from the Russian embassies and consulates by saying, that my condition is satisfactory in their opinion. It is not clear from the jail administration’s answers to all these official requests, how all my chronic illnesses, not to mention those newly contracted [since imprisonment], have been cured," Yaroshenko complained.

    The imprisoned pilot said that the US authorities considered his illness "like pregnancy – everything is resolved, cured and goes away after time."

    "To my multiple requests to put in implants or dentures in the place of the teeth kicked out during the tortures and lost as a result of malnutrition and lack of medical assistance, and to provide the required treatment for the remaining damaged teeth, they say that they can provide only those services at the prison dentist office, that are included in the prison instructions, rules and budget; and that there is a lack of necessary equipment, medicines and specialists. The cabinet mainly works on removing teeth," Yaroshenko explained.

    However, the conditions of medical assistance provision to US nationals are absolutely different, Yaroshenko added, explaining that the jail authorities may take US citizens for treatment to normal outside dentist clinics. The payment for the services may be submitted either by the jail or the inmate himself or any other organization, Yaroshenko said.

    "I have asked them many times to take me to the city dentist clinic for prosthetic dentistry, implantation and treatment, because my jail term is very long and it is not clear how I will be able to eat in the near future. The payment will be carried out by a Russian diplomatic mission’s fund. But they rejected my plea," Yaroshenko complained.

    As a rule, the US authorities begin to provide medical help to the foreign inmates, "when a detainee’s condition is critical or when someone pressures them," the Russian pilot continued.

    "It happened just like this when my proctological condition was simply intolerable and the pain had driven me insane. Only after the personal interference by [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, I was taken in haste to a hospital, got a shoddy surgery and swiftly, 15-20 minutes after the surgery, I was brought back to the jail without any proscribed painkillers or medicines," he said, adding that the pain after the surgery was intolerable for a very long time.

    Religious Descrimination

    "I have repeatedly said … that there are various kinds of severe discrimination against me – from religious to national [discrimination]," Yaroshenko continued.

    To illustrate his point, the Russian pilot said that the jail administration allowed his Jewish inmates to celebrate their annual week-long holiday Sukkot by building a Sukkah hut in the jail yard, equipping it with electricity, placing tables and paintings at the celebration site and providing them with Kosher food prepared specially for them outside the jail cafeteria.

    "As a member of the Orthodox Church, I am banned from everything! For many years, I have been asking them to allow me, even for one time in the year, for the Orthodox Easter, to buy or receive as a gift from the Orthodox church, a baptismal cross, an icon, an Easter cake and eggs. No, anything like this is prohibited to me as a member of the Orthodox Church, and additionally as a Russian and a citizen of Russia," Yaroshenko pointed out.

    He also complained about the jail administration’s denial to allow visit of an Orthodox priest Ljubo Milosevic.

    "They explained it by the fact that I had never met with him before being captured and detained. As for [denials of visits by] friends and distant relatives, they have not even explained them," Yaroshenko said.

    Provocations by Jail Officers

    "There are constant provocations by the jail officers. Mainly, they are the same officers who, I am sure, are instructed to in any way possible instigate me for any actions or words that would allow placing me in a punishment cell, just as happened several years ago over my contacts with the Russian media. This is the democracy, the US way … I am trying to hold back with the last of my strength," Yaroshenko complained.

    Yaroshenko mentioned insulting remarks about the Russian people, harassment and humiliations among such provocations by the US detention officers.

    "The embassy representatives ask me not to react to these provocations, to ignore their insults. But my soul is raging when some ignoramuses, who have an eyeful of the US propaganda machine, the media and the movies, consider themselves, like [ex-US President Barack] Obama had said, the chosen ones, the Supermen, the Captain Americas etc., who are fighting the Russian evil; who have the association that a Russian means a terrorist, criminal, aggressor etc.; when they start to disjointedly insult the Russian people," Yaroshenko pointed out.

    He explained that the majority of the jail officers are former US army soldiers who had not ever seen a real Russian citizen from Russia or anything beyond their state, "not to mention about the culture."

    Yaroshenko said that he was the only Russian and Russian citizen out of the 5,000 inmates in the prison in which he was serving his term. When engaging in their harassment, the jail officers feel like "superheroes who are encountering a Russian aggressor," the pilot pointed out.

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