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Russian prisons today
Russia is notorious for its political prisoners, and the authorities have only added to this population by adopting numerous laws since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine that outlaw most forms of anti-war self-expression. Figures like journalist Ivan Safronov and opposition politician Alexey Navalny were already locked up before the full-scale invasion, and now they’re joined by politicians like Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza. As relatively unknown activists are dragged into court for minor anti-war actions and the Kremlin takes hostages like American journalist Evan Gershkovich, Russia’s prison system is regularly in the news, but how is it actually built and what’s life like for those inside and their loved ones on the outside?
For answers, Meduza turns to Professor Judith Pallot, the research director of the Gulag Echoes project at the University of Helsinki’s Aleksanteri Institute (you can find the project’s blog here), and journalist Ksenia Mironova, the cohost of the Time No Longer (Времени больше не будет) podcast, where she interviews experts and the friends and relatives of political prisoners. Mironova is also the partner of Ivan Safronov, another journalist now serving a 22-year “treason” sentence in prison.
Timestamps for this episode:
- (1:48) A word from The Beet
- (6:31) How big is Russia’s prison population?
- (11:01) The prison system’s history of “reforms”
- (17:48) Is today’s system reverting to the Gulag?
- (20:00) Conditions behind bars
- (28:19) Comparing the Russian and Ukrainian prison systems and appreciating civil society’s oversight
- (34:05) Ksenia Mironova on the lives of political prisoners and their partners
Production by Ania Kovalenko. Sound editing and mixing by Kevin Rothrock.
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