The eight most unconvincing excuses Russian cops have offered when accused of torturing prisoners Meduza summarizes a new list by MediaZona and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Ilya Naymushin / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA
Together with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the news website MediaZona has compiled a list of the top-eight most “unconvincing excuses” Russian police officers have offered in recent years, when trying to explain injuries sustained by prisoners in their custody. Meduza summarizes the list here.
He rolled around on the ground and hurt himself on tree roots
In May 2015, Moscow’s anti-extremism police detained a group of men in a park. One of the men, Pavel Baronin, says he ran from the officers because they weren’t in uniform and didn’t identify themselves. When they caught him, Baronin says seven attackers knocked him to the ground and started beating him. He says he was then tied up with wire and left lying on the cold ground.
Investigators later determined that police acted within their authority, finding that Baronin's injuries were the result of him breaking free from the officers and “deliberately falling to the ground” and rolling over the earth, cutting and bruising himself on tree roots in an effort to injure himself and incriminate the police.
A floodboard fell on his head
In September 2013, the mother of a Russian convict named Vladimir Tkachuk received an anonymous phone call informing her that her son had been beaten to death by prison guards. His body was reportedly discovered with multiple injuries. State investigators refused six times to open a criminal case, ruling that a floorboard had slipped onto Tkachuk’s head during repair work. According to the coroner, however, his injuries were the result of repeated blows by a blunt object to several different parts of his head.
In the end, investigators did launch a criminal case, and two prison officials were taken into custody, though it only happened in June 2017, after human rights activists filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights.
He bumped into a nightstick
In January 2008, two police officers in the Russian city of Mari El approached Dmitry Efremov and asked to see his identification. Efremov didn’t have his documents with him, which led to an argument that he says resulted in his being beaten up. Efremov says the two officers knocked him to the ground and started kicking him and hitting him with their fists and nightsticks. After being detained briefly, doctors diagnosed him with bruises on his face, arms, legs, left buttock, and lower lip.
One of the officers who detained Efremov denies that he used force against him, explaining that he didn’t have a belt holster for his nightstick, which he says he had to hang from his hand, meaning that “it’s possible” it might have made contact with Efremov when he was being detained.
Investigators have refused 12 times to open a criminal case into the incident, and a lawsuit is currently awaiting the European Court of Human Rights’ consideration.
He was drunk and complained about his liver
In September 2014, police officers outside Moscow detained a Tajik migrant named Farrukh Urozov on suspicion of raping a six-year-old girl. A few hours later in the hallway of a local police station, paramedics recorded the man’s death. Urozov’s brother says he was nearby in the station beforehand, and claims to have heard Farrukh scream out over the sounds of what sounded like punches. Forensics experts concluded that he died from a chest injury with multiple broken ribs and acute respiratory failure. Doctors say he sustained at least 75 blows.
Police say Urozov complained of liver pain and said he was drunk, when they brought him into the station and asked him to sign a confession. Officers say the punching sounds his brother thinks he heard were actually the sound of an interrogator slamming down a copy of Russia’s criminal code in a repeated dramatic gesture.
That story wasn’t good enough for investigators, who opened a criminal case into Urozov’s death. In June 2016, a city court sentenced three police officers to seven years in prison.
He knocked over a cabinet and cut himself on a broken mirror
In August 2016, a special forces police unit raided the home of a medical student named Murad Ragimov. They handcuffed him, and spent almost four hours beating him — first in the hallway and then in the kitchen. Ragimov’s relatives say the officers punched and kicked him, tortured him with electric shocks, beat him with a broken table leg, smashed a crystal bowl over his head, suffocated him with a bag, and stomped on his handcuffs. After failing to get Ragimov to confess to terrorism, illegal drugs manufacturing, and illegal weapons possession, police arrested him for possession of narcotics. The man’s father says he watched officers plant the drugs on his son.
When Ragimov refused to sign the police report against him, an officer drove a knife into his foot.
Despite a thorough medical report, investigators refused to open a case against the officers who tortured Ragimov. Police claim he charged at them with “a large shield” and knocked down a cabinet with a mirror. The mirror supposedly broke, and Ragimov cut himself on the shards, the officers told investigators, who bought it, despite the fact that photographs from the police raid show Ragimov’s cabinet in place and its mirror intact.
He didn’t stick the landing when jumping from a logging truck
Police in the Nizhny Novgorod area detained Oleg Krayushkin in September 2012 on charges of stealing a sawmill that Krayushkin says he bought shortly before his arrest. Police handcuffed him and spent several hours beating his feet with clubs. Krayushkin was released from jail after two months, but the case was never dismissed. Investigators did open a case against an unidentified police officer, but there have yet to be any criminal charges.
Initially, investigators accepted the police officers’ explanation for Krayushkin’s injuries: the suspect hurt himself when jumping from a logging truck.
He bonked into a bookshelf
Between 2002 and 2003, on several different occasions, police in the Nizhny Novgorod region tortured Dmitry Ochelkov. According to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, officers beat him, tied him up in stress positions, suffocated him with a gas mask, and shocked him with electricity. Investigators declined nine times to open a case into Ochelkov’s abuse. In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights awarded him 20,000 euros in compensation.
Responding to the ruling, Russian officials maintained that Ochelkov was responsible for his own injuries, claiming that he slammed himself against “protruding parts” of a patrol car after he was detained, and bruised his face when he “fell down some stairs.” Police officers also say he twice hit his head on a bookshelf in an interrogation room.
The statute of limitations for the torture allegations eventually passed without any police officers being charged, and Dmitry Ochelkov died in 2012.
He sat on his hands and squished them
Police detained Sergey Lyapin in 2008 for collecting unattended scrap metal. They suspected him of stealing it from garages. To get a confession, they tied him down and tortured him with electric shocks, wrapping wires around his pinky fingers. When asked to explain the subsequent medical report, officers claimed that Lyapin sat on his hands while in detention, which caused them to swell. The police said Lyapin injured his face by rubbing himself with a denim jacket.
In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights awarded Lyapin 45,000 euros in damages. It was only after this ruling that Russian investigators opened a criminal case, but the officers Lyapin identified weren’t named as suspects. There have yet to be any charges, and the torture allegations’ statute of limitations will take effect soon.