A group of human rights defenders and lawyers have launched a new project called “Grey Zone” (“Seraya zona” in Russian), which maps information on cases of respiratory illnesses in Russia’s prison colonies and pre-trial detention centers.
The project is based on official data on coronavirus patients from the country’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), as well as information from inmates and their relatives (confirmed by multiple sources), and media reports.
The human rights defenders are sending inquiries to the prosecutor’s office and the Federal Penitentiary Service for each unconfirmed case, demanding that they carry out an inspection and ensure the safety of prisoners and staff at correctional facilities.
The activists behind the “Grey Zone” project consider it unacceptable that the Russian penitentiary system operates under an “information blockade, and that [its] institutions are completely closed off from society, especially during the epidemic.”
The Federal Penitentiary Service last released data on the spread of the coronavirus in the prison system on May 14. According to official statistics, 617 of the department’s employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as 145 inmates. Reportedly, 208 penitentiary system employees and 29 prisoners have recovered so far. There have been no reported deaths.
On the morning of May 25, Russian officials announced that the country recorded 8,946 new coronavirus infections in the past day, bringing the nation’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 353,427. Another 92 people reportedly died from the disease, raising Russia’s total number of fatalities officially caused by COVID-19 to 3,633.