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Kopeisk: Visit to Penal Colony No. 6 on 10 December 2012

10 December 2012


Chelyabinsk Public Oversight Commission observer group led by Nikolai Shchur
(D.A. Latypova, N.A. Shchur, T.M. Shchur) 
(attended by two observers: N.A. Shchur and T.M. Shchur) 

Well, the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service (GUFSIN) has recovered from its initial fright: they once again did not let us into the “zone”. The prison guards didn't bother thinking up anything new to tell us, just rehashing the same old GUFSIN lies, once again showing that the word of an interior service officer isn’t worth three kopecks, even if the officer in question is General Major V.N. Turbanov himself. Do you remember how, in his open address to the media on 7 December, he solemnly vowed that the work of the Public Oversight Commission would not be hindered in any way? Well, I say, his words aren't worth the paper they're printed on. 

From the top:

The head of the education department, Major Andrei Leonidovich Vasiliev, was already waiting for us at the colony gates when we arrived. We went through the security checkpoint without issue. We handed in our phones. Once we got to the zone, he said: “We're going up to the fourth floor – there's a room prepared for you.” (??) “We're supposed to go to the recreation centre and then to solitary.” “No, first to the fourth floor, and we'll work out everything there.”

We had never been invited up to the fourth floor of the administrative building, only to the third floor to see the boss.

We got to the fourth floor and sat down in a psychologist's office: “Well, what now?”

“Just sit a while, we'll decide now.”

It was clear that we were being held up, just like on 3 December.

“Right so, you have 10 minutes, after 10 minutes we're getting up and leaving.”

The phone started to ring, at which point Vasiliev left the office for every call. We sat and waited for whatever story they were concocting for us this time.

We realised that we were waiting for V.S. Nazarkin, the assistant for human rights, to arrive from the Directorate. We were totally against this, as I had phoned Nazarkin before we set off for the colony and he told me that he would not be going since there was no need for him to accompany us.

So we got up and left.

We went down one floor to see D.S. Mekhanov. We went into his office. Denis Sergeevich was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, showing no sign of his previous low spirits. In his office there was some sort of colonel, another officer and a person in civilian clothes, as well as the despicable deputy for Security and Operations, E.P. Zyakhor. Everyone was in their place as though nothing had happened.

I said to Mekhaov:

“Denis Sergeeivch, let us into the zone.”


“You're in the zone. There's an office ready for you, you'll work there.”

“No, Denis Sergeevich, we'll work where we think we need to. Could you please just abide by the law.”

“It would be better if you didn't show your faces in the zone; your presence provokes the prisoners and you upset the operation of the facility.”

Just like that.

I said to Mekhaov:

“What, do I have to call Petrukhin again?”

After this Mekhanov ordered his officers to take us to the recreation centre and then to bring strictly one prisoner at a time to see us. He repeated this several times: only one at a time! 

We went into the zone.

It was quiet, quiet in a completely difference way, not like the last time. No one was in the regime zone; all the local sectors were closed. There wasn’t anyone in the “local” yards either and no one was playing hockey on the rink. The gates to the living area were locked and we could only enter through the duty area.

We arrived at the recreation centre. We handed over a list of 9 surnames to the officers, asking that they be brought to us.

You can probably guess what happened next: “No one came with us.” The officers’ explanation? “The convicts don't want to meet with you.”

We went to the block, to look in the eyes of the prisoners who had agreed to meet with us today.

There was a conflict going on in the block: the prison officers were not allowing the prisoners who wanted to see us to do so. It turned out that after receiving our list, the good officers went around the blocks, saying: “The Public Oversight Commission hasn't come today.” 

No, when I said the word of V.N. Turbanov wasn't worth three kopecks, I overestimated: it's worth half a kopeck, tops. And if this is a general acting like this, what can we expect from majors?

We finally started seeing prisoners an hour and twenty minutes after entering the zone. 

The result?

Main: Several people stated that the investigators were totally ignoring the prisoners' reports of evidence being removed. For example, at an appointment a prisoner might say to the investigator, “Boxes of documents and disks, cheques, consignment notes etc. are hidden here and here - take them away.” The investigator would reply: “Right, very well, I'll take a look tomorrow or the next day and make a decision...” That night the colony workers together with Discipline and Order Section officers come with carts, take away the documents and burn them in an industrial estate (the surnames of the workers and Discipline and Order officers were given, as well as dates: this has been taking place since 28 November, if not before).

The next key issue is that investigators are not accepting statements from prisoners. What's more, the lock that stopped us from entering the living area wasn't just for our sake – all of the investigators are in the administrative area, meaning that the prisoners cannot even physically get to them.

We were also told that investigators did not want to find the block where knives and sabres were being manufactured, and how the prisoners had to insist on the “discovery” of the block by investigators.

The prisoners were unanimous in saying that the Chelyabinsk investigators and prosecutors were colluding with the colony administration and were ensuring that the last of the evidence was destroyed. No one has any faith in the investigation led by “locals”, and they are all waiting for Muscovites to get involved.

The prisoners' statements that were not taken by investigators and prosecutors were given over to us in sealed envelopes. There were 621 in total. We will sort them and will hand them over to the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor's Office – let's see them try to refuse us as well.

We visited solitary where the silence was pleasing to the ear: no heavy metal this time. There were also very few inmates: some left abruptly for the block, some for the strict custody conditions block. There were no battered or sick men. In the strict custody conditions block there were many complaints about living conditions. They were noted but not dealt with in depth. 

We left at 16:20. (We went in at 11:48). We went to Mekhanov to give him the statements addressed to him (the special section, we complained, had not taken them). Denis Sergeeivch was cheerful, buoyant and self-assured. He took everything and noted it in his diary. He was civil and good-willed. It could have been as a result of working with the investigators and prosecutors from Chelyabinsk, I don't know. 

We went into the special section and handed in the correspondence from the prisoners.

And so we ended our visit. As they say, we leave you to come to your own conclusions. We will set out our own conclusions in the visit summary, which we hoped to have ready by next week.

Nikolai Alekseevich Shchur 
Member of Chelyabinsk Oblast Public Oversight Commission, 
Director of the Urals Democratic Foundation 

10 December 2012 20:26 MSK