Authorities in Russia are investigating allegations of torture and rape in the country’s prison system after leaked footage appeared to show inmates being abused.
The human rights group Gulagu.net released over 1,000 videos, filmed behind bars in Russian prisons, which it said showed hundreds of people being abused and tortured.
The films form part of a large collection of files which were provided by an anonymous Belarusian whistleblower, who had been imprisoned in the Saratov facility, the rights group said.
One of the videos seems to show a man with no clothes on being abused stick at a prison hospital in the city of Saratow.
Another appeared to show footage of a man lying face-down with his hands fastened behind him with tape, while a guard presses a boot into his back.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday: “If the authenticity of this material is confirmed, it would be grounds for a serious investigation.”
He added the the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), the organisation which oversees Russia’s prisons, was looking into the matter.
A team from FSIN was sent to the Saratov prison, 450 miles southeast of Moscow, to verify the allegations.
They have since said five senior prison officials have been fired. These included the director of the prison where the alleged abuse took place, as well as the head of the regional prison service.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, an organisation charged with looking into major crimes, said on Wednesday it had opened a number of inquiries into sexual violence and abuse of authority in prisons.
Meanwhile, the head of the FSIN branch in the Saratov region apparently quit on Tuesday night due to the scandal. According to the Interfax news agency, Alexei Fedotov submitted a letter of resignation.
Gulagu.net founder Vladimir Osechkin told the AFP news agency: “It is the first time that human rights defenders have obtained such a colossal amount of information proving the systemic nature of torture in Russia.”
Speaking to Reuters, Mr Osechkin added: “A system of torture has been and is still operational,”
He added “[The authoritie]) are afraid to admit the truth in public, and the truth is awful because the truth is that their special services have been torturing people en masse.”
According to Mr Osechkin, at least 200 inmates have been tortured and raped in Russian jails, with 40 shown in the videos. He has vowed to release more material over the coming days.
Russian law states inmates in the country’s prison system must not be treated in a way that is “harsh” or “abuses human dignity.”
Prison officials who abuse their position can be jailed for up to a decade.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies