Video leaks showing Russian prison guards torturing an inmate in Yaroslavl
On Friday, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a video recorded by a Federal Penitentiary Service employee, showing the torture of inmate Evgeny Makarov at a Yaroslavl prison on June 29, 2017. The footage was handed over to journalists by lawyers from the organization “Public Verdict,” which is defending Makarov.
Responding to the video, the Penitentiary Service’s regional office announced an internal investigation. According to the Telegram channel Mash, prison officials held an “extended meeting” focused mainly on asking “How did this video end up on the Internet, and who uploaded it?” Prison administrators did not answer Meduza’s calls, and the Federal Penitentiary Service said it “cannot comment at this time,” referring Meduza to the regional branch’s public statement.
According to Novaya Gazeta, the video was recorded in an “educational work class” at the prison, where Makarov was brought after insulting a guard. He told his lawyers that guards searched his cell while he was allowed outside, finding a letter from his mother, which they left on the floor. When Makarov saw this, he says he told the guards to “go fuck themselves.”
The 10-minute video shows a room full of people, mostly dressed in gray camouflage. Evgeny Makarov (whom the guards identify by his surname) is lying face down on a table. Several men are sitting on him, holding his handcuffed hands violently behind his back. The guards take turns beating the soles of his feet with clubs and their fists, periodically pouring buckets of water over him. In the middle of the video, they remove his pants and underwear. Makarov howls and asks them to stop.
Warning! The following footage contains disturbing scenes of violence. Viewer discretion is advised.
At one point in the video, a prison guard says to Makarov, “Oh, had enough, have you? And why did you call me ginger mutt? What was that apology about, can't hear ya? [...] Have I ever called you [bleep] what you just called me? [...] You told me you were going to [bleep] me in the ass! Or am I imagining things? Did that happen or not?” Makarov, who at this point has been dragged off the table, answers, “It was something like that.” The guards then resume beating him. When he screams, the guards shout back: “This is nothing! We’ve only just begun!” and “It’s fine! It’s fine!” Noticing that Makarov’s feet are swelling, one guard says, “My hands are already swollen!”
Makarov says the guards also waterboarded him, covering his face with a towel and pouring water over his head, to simulate drowning.
This wasn’t the first time prison guards beat up Evgeny Makarov, whose name appeared in news reports in April 2017, when he was attacked along with two other inmates: Ivan Nepomnyashchikh (a “Bolotnaya Square case” convict) and Ruslan Vakhapov (who was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison for “depraved acts against minors,” though he says he merely urinated in the bushes without realizing that children were nearby). Lawyers from “Public Verdict” say they appealed to Russian law enforcement and the European Court of Human Rights, but an internal investigation by the local prosecutor’s office “found no violations” in the guards’ actions.
According to Novaya Gazeta, “Public Verdict” lawyer Irina Biryukova learned about Makarov’s latest beating (the one captured on video) after receiving news that he “can no longer stand” because of the torture and is now “soiling himself with blood.” (Biryukova’s group reported the incident the very next day.) She soon managed to “force her way” into the prison, where she documented multiple cuts and bruises on Makarov’s face and legs. Biryukova then appealed again to Russian law enforcement and the European Court of Human Rights, which asked Russian officials for information about the attack.
The Investigative Committee refused to open a criminal case. The inspector who reviewed the evidence said he watched the video footage and “did not see any abuses of authority.” Prison officials testified that Makarov started inciting other inmates to disobey the guards, after he was disciplined for insulting one of them. Makarov also allegedly tried to cut himself on the neck with a nail. Afterwards, guards say they handcuffed him and hit him “about eight times” with their batons. When prison officials were disciplining him again, Makarov supposedly started smashing his own head into a wall. Investigators noted in their report that two prison guards passed a polygraph test while testifying.
With the help of two former inmates, “Public Verdict” managed to identify many of the prison guards who appear in the video: “educational work” deputy head Ivan Kalashnikov, case officers Sergey Efremov and Sinap Mamayan, warden assistant Dmitry Borbot, crew chiefs Vasily Trubetskoi, Kirill Ignashov, and Alexey Nikityuk, security officers Maxim Yablokov, Ruslan Tsvetkov, Alexander Morozov, Alexey Brovkin, and Vasily Yudin. The lawyers were unable to find the surnames of the prison officials Sergey Arkadievich, Dmitry Evgenevich, Igor, his brother, and someone whose patronymic is Vladimirovich. The identity of the man who recorded the video is also unknown.
In late 2017, Evgeny Makarov was transferred to a different prison in the Yaroslavl region. According to “Public Verdict,” the guards at this new facility have also tortured and beat him, and they’ve even threatened him with rape.
After Novaya Gazeta published the video on July 20, federal investigators in Yaroslavl finally opened a criminal case under Article 286 of the Russian Criminal Code: abuse of authority using violence.” Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova told the news agency RIA Novosti that she’s closely scrutinizing the case, and noted that this isn’t the first such violation at the prison in question.