The head of the Federal Prison Service of Russia, Alexander Kalashnikov, was dismissed by President Vladimir Putin. His deputy, Arkady Gostev, will take his place. The changes came after the disclosure of drastic incidents of torture in prisons, but human rights activists say the decision will “change nothing” in the prison system.
Alexander Kalashnikov headed the Federal Prison Service (FSIN) since October 2019. Previously, he headed the structures of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Komi Republic and Krasnoyarsk Krai. His successor, Arkady Gostev, comes from the Ministry of the Interior and has been the deputy head of this ministry since June 2012.
The changes came weeks after the human rights organization Gulagu.net released shocking videos documenting torture in a prison in Saratov. Activists announced that they had received videos, photos and documents proving that there were “FSB and FSIN agents operating in the prisons who, on the orders of their probation officers, mistreat and rape prisoners.”
Following these publications, several criminal cases were initiated, and the head of the FSIN in the Saratov region, Alexei Fedotov, resigned. 18 officers were released from the prison structures in the region.
Initially, the authorities also initiated a criminal case against Gulagu.net’s informant Sergei Saveliov, but later revoked the decision.
In an interview with the Echo Moskvy radio station, the creator of Gulagu.net, Vladimir Osechkin, said that Putin’s decision to dismiss the head of the FSIN was “expected”. – Putin had high hopes and he trusted the FSB generals. And for the last 10 years, it was FSB generals, first Gennady Kornienko, and then Alexander Kalashnikov, who headed the Federal Prison Service. He did not complete the assigned tasks, said Osechkin, recalling that hundreds of prisoners suffered in Russian prisons, and in some establishments there were even killings.
Russian human rights activist Zoya Svetova believes that Kalashnikov’s resignation is linked to the publicity of torture incidents in prisons. – The fact that it was removed due to the torture scandal is a formal reason. Most likely, there are many reasons for this. I don’t believe that someone in Russia can be removed precisely because they were involved in torture. There is a more complicated story here, but I have no information – emphasized the interlocutor of the Moscow radio station.
In her opinion, however, the resignation will not change anything. Swietowa recalled that a similar situation took place after her death Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer investigating the theft of money from the Hermitage Capital fund, who died in the custody of Matroskaya Tishin in 2009. – At that time, the then head of the Federal Prison Service was also dismissed and several generals were released. But has the prison system changed since Magnitsky’s death? As we can see, no. We even learned of the more terrible events and tortures that take place there. Therefore, there is little hope that something will change, added the human rights defender.
Main photo source: Jonas Petrovas / Shutterstock