18:26 Oct. 3, 2016
Kremlin-backed regimes use starvation, torture, forced labour in their prisons, rights activists say
According to a new Russian-language report by the Eastern Human Rights Group, thousands of prisoners are used as "slave labour" in 15 "correctional colonies" on the territory of the so called "LPR" (its less than half of militant-controlled territory).
Some make furniture, coffins, board games or barbed wire, others grind flour or work in rudimentary and unsafe coal mines known as "kopanki", the report says. The authors say they carried out 74 interviews with inmates, relatives and witnesses of abuses.
"It is impossible for an inmate to refuse to work," the report says, listing three stages of punishment for those who try it:
Profits from the sale of goods made by the inmates – which came to 34 mln hryvnias in 2012 (USD 1,3 mln) – are distributed among the "LPR" leadership, the report alleges.
"About 5,000 people work without payment every day in order to preserve their life and health, to receive visits from relatives and not to die of hunger," it goes on. "All this takes place for the purpose of enriching a certain group of people in the so-called ‘LPR'."
One man quoted anonymously in the report says that to deter prisoners from rebelling, those regarded as potential troublemakers are occasionally beaten up by masked police. On one occasion, he says, an inmate was badly hurt but refused medical help and died as a result.
Another un-named inmate is said to have been denied any food and water for three days, in order to force him to return to work. One talks about being forced to stand for eight to 10 hours per day in a courtyard that is hot in summer and cold in winter.
The director of the Eastern Human Rights Group, Pavel Lisyansky, says he has evidence that a similar forced labour system is employed in prisons in the neighbouring Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), another rebel-held region, affecting a further 5,000 prisoners. A report on conditions in the DPR will be published next month.
"It's hard to believe that we are witnessing slave labour in the middle of Europe in the 21st Century. But this is happening, and something needs to be done," Lisyansky says. "These people feel like they have been abandoned, and are without hope. The prisons are closed to visits from anyone except relatives. The Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies have no way of helping. The ranks of the slave labourers are increasing with the addition of new prisoners jailed since 2014, sometimes for minor offences".
He criticises the Ukrainian government for failing to ensure that people imprisoned by Ukrainian courts are transferred out of the rebel-held areas to finish their sentences in Ukrainian prisons – as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered in a decree issued in November 2014.
As reported, today the information was discovered that Putin's regime have taken one more political hostage. The new victim is Ukrainian journalist of state-run agency, called ‘intel colonel' by Russian FSB.