Together with a number of Russian and international media, Dagbladet gained access to parts of a massive video leak showing how prisoners in Russian prisons were systematically tortured for a number of years.
The material shook even the close circle of President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, who launched an investigation into the situation.
In all, human rights group Gulagu.net claims to be sitting on more than 40 gigabytes of similar videos, which will feature everything from physical and mental humiliation to serious violence and rape of Russian prisoners.
“These secret and inhumane methods of torture must be stopped immediately,” Vladimir Usishkin, founder of Gulagu.net, told Dagbladet.
You must show rape
The video, which caused the biggest stir in Russia, is said to have come from a prison hospital in the city of Saratov, located along the Volga River, about 730 kilometers southeast of Moscow.
The video, taken in 2020, shows how a naked man, tied to a bed, howls in pain while being raped with what appears to be a long red broomstick.
Thick plastic was laid on the bed, and there were prison guards covering the inmate’s face.
Dagbladet had access to this video, among other things, but was unable to verify whether the content in it was real. It also does not have the Russian authorities.
– If the material proves to be real, there is, of course, a basis for a thorough investigation, says the president According to the Moscow Times, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
At the same time, the Russian authorities sent a handful of high-ranking officials to Saratov for investigation.
– All materials are original and are taken from a video archive. The reaction of the Russian authorities speaks for itself. Usishkin, founder of Gulagu.net, tells Dagbladet: We have good and detailed procedures to verify our information and we never publish anything false.
“Torture as a problem in Russian prisons is very severe and the authorities are not doing enough to ensure effective investigations,” Lukshina said.
– I will continue
All videos must come from a former prisoner who served time in the Saratov prison. The ex-prisoner must be an IT expert, who during the prison term had access to the prison’s IT systems.
In a digital archive, the videos must be stored.
As for Dagbladet, Osetskin doesn’t want to dig into who the informant is.
It is already known that the guy is supposed to be Belarusian and is no longer in Russia. Osichkin calls him “Belarusian Snowden”.
So far, only a small portion of the total leak has been shared. Next time, Gulagu.net will be sharing more and more videos, according to Uschkin.
No matter what happens.
– It is important to understand that we will not give up. “We will continue to publish this material, which reflects the actual situation and reveals the mechanism of torture in Russian prisons,” Oshkin said.
compared to gulag
The founder of Gulagu.net lives in France, and has done so since 2015. Four years earlier, in 2011, he founded the organization that works, among other things, to improve conditions in Russian prisons.
The name Gulagu is itself a reference to Criminal and infamous labor colonies in the Soviet Union During the era of Joseph Stalin. It is said that at least 7.6 million prisoners went through the Gulag system between 1921 and 1953, but the number is controversial and could be much higher.
In total, it is estimated that between 1.5 and 1.7 million people died during or as a result of staying in the Gulag camps, According to Store norske leksikon.
The inhumane conditions in many of the camps were depicted, among other things, by the Russian Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who himself was a Gulag prisoner from 1945 to 1950.
– These Gulag conditions have never disappeared from Russian prisons. They only exchanged the name of the SSSR (Soviet Union, journal.anm.) with Russia, but the entire system, with its weaknesses and totalitarian tendencies, has been preserved, Usishkin says.
The call to violence and repression
Therefore, he is also suspicious of the consequences of the massive video leak he facilitated in Russia.
It is true that the commander and several employees of the prison hospital in Saratov were fired, but when asked directly if he believed that the videos could lead to permanent changes in the prison system, Osichkin’s answer is consistent:
– In the.
Then Oshkin begins to embroider. He believes that Russian society is asleep, and points out that even in Saratov, the city where the prisoner’s rape is said to have taken place, no one took to the streets.
Of course, he hopes that the video materials he shared will have consequences, both internally in Russia and the rest of the world, he says. In the near future, he and the organization will work to get a response from the Council of Europe’s Monitoring Committee on Torture and the United Nations.
Then Usishkin quickly turns to a more bleak path.
– The opportunity for change is not real as long as the international community believes that this is the problem of the Russians. At the same time, the Russian people are full of fear that they will end up in prison and be tortured, as in the videos. Then ends a cycle of violence and oppression, which since the time of the Gulag has traumatized the entire population and instilled in them the fear of standing up for themselves, says Usichkin.
But he stresses that this does not mean that Osichkin and his organization will surrender.
We will do everything in our power to humanize Russian society. At a minimum, we will continue to talk about this. We will continue to expose torture and incidents of violence, but with the current system, we do not expect any real change.
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