On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture "Mediazona" publishes the stories of seven clients of the Committee for Prevention of Torture from Orenburg and Nizhny Novgorod and their portraits taken by Mikhail Solounin.
Vyacheslav Sadovskiy, 26 year-old
25-26 August 2008, the Dzerzhinsky District Department of the Interior of Orenburg
Cause: 18 year-old Sadovskiy together with his two friends, Anton Ferapontov and Maksim Nimatov, was apprehended near his home. At the police department the police officers were trying to obtain confession statements from the young men that they allegedly robbed a food stall and beat a man to death.
Torture: «We were taken to third floor. Two police officers brought me to the office, where five more of them were already. They moved the chair next to the wall and told me: "We know what you were doing on the night from 22 to 23". I told them I did not know what they were talking about. The dialogue lasted for about twenty seconds. I was thrown on the floor, they started to twist my arms and legs and pinch me from all the sides. Then they brought in the gas mask. One of them sat on my back, attached the tube to the linoleum and then started to jump on my back pushing out the oxygen. As the air leaves the gas mask produces a sound, then he says: "It's farting, good".
I thought I would pretend that I lost consciousness, but I felt I couldn't because I got jerky. When they took off the gas mask, they asked me if I wanted to say anything. One of them said: "Now you won't tell anyone anything, I will burn your eye with a cigarette". And then he burnt my eyelid, pinched it with a cigarette end. I open my eyes, they put a gas mask on me again and start to beat me up. I can hear my friends shouting in neighboring offices.
Anton Ferapontov — he was hung on a stick as a shot down wild animal. His arms and feet were tied together, in between there was a stick; he was taken from room to room like that. They moved the tables together, hang him there, put on a gas mask on him and beat him up.
At about 4 a.m. some other police officers came in, the torture was sort of ended, but I still had a gas mask on. They broke my ribs. One of the police officers approached to me in the morning and told me: "If you don't take the gun case on yourself, I will throw you out of the window". And in the intervals when they tortured, you know, I wanted to jump out of the window or commit suicide in some other way, had I any chance. Because it was beyond description».
Injuries: All the young men were diagnosed with hematomas, bruises, joints dislocation, one of the young men had a cerebral concussion, Vyacheslav Sadovskiy had a broken rib, Anton Ferapontov had a broken nose.
Case status: No charges have been brought up against the young men. The court awarded them a compensation in the amount of 1 000 roubles each for illegal detention by the police officers. 17 refusals to initiate criminal proceedings on the torture case have been issued, the case was opened only in 2014. Several officers were accused of negligence, the case was closed due to the expiry of the statute of limitations; two police officers —Albert Akmanov and Vasily Zoubikhin — are on trial at the moment for applying violence — they continue their service in the Ministry of the Interior.
About the police: «I simply hate all of them. You see, if I go somewhere where they are sitting in their uniform, I start to get nervous and shake. I still have nightmares about this, it is probably for life: the nightmares about these tortures. I wake up in a sweat. When I tell someone about it, it is not that I try to remember and tell how it was, but it is just coming up in my memory by itself and it is as it's happening to me again. Everything as it was, only with a view from above. It is for good now, for life.
Even when you are sitting in court and looking at them — you feel so much hatred, although I'm not a cruel person, I'm very calm, and could easily bear a lot, but as soon as I see them my eyebrow starts shaking. It will never get back to normal again».
Sergey Ivanov, 33 year-old
14 March 2012, Orenburg
Torture: «I was getting back home carrying a bottle of beer, it was dark already, the police officers stopped me and asked for documents. A neighbor was accompanying me. I told them I lived nearby, I suggested showing where. "Get in the car". I sat in Gazelle vehicle, and all of a sudden the police officer tells the driver to go to the police department. I asked what the reason was for that. At that point the police officer got mad and started to hit me.
He pulled off his jacket and started to hit me. When I fell he trampled me. And then I lost consciousness and when I came back to my senses I saw that we were approaching the police department. "Get out". And everything inside me hurts, it's hard to move. I went to the jail cell; I could not sit so I stood up, started to shout so that they call for an ambulance. I shouted that I was dying — indeed, I felt that it was getting dark before my eyes. For about half an hour there was nothing, then the ambulance came. The person who beat me up named Litvishko went with us. He was holding my wheelbarrow till the surgery room, keep saying: "Brother, save me, forgive me"».
Cause: «He said that he was tired, he was back from his shift, in the evening they attended a difficult call and he had a nervous breakdown. It was an aberration of mind».
Consequences: The doctors diagnosed Ivanov with a broken rib, internal hemorrhage and a ruptured spleen which had to be removed.
Case status: The police officers tried to intimidate Ivanov and his family so that they withdrew their complaints. The neighbor who was beaten up together with Sergey, withdrew his testimony, but a woman-investigator who was in the same vehicle told about the battery. In 2013 police officer Oleg Litvishko was sentenced to three years of prison term for abuse of office with the use of violence. He had an early release on parole. The Orenburg Regional Court awarded compensation to Ivanov in the amount of 300 thousand roubles.
About the police: «Well, people are different as such. This one turned out to be this way, others may be normal. One cannot generalize in this case».
Now: «Yes, it is hard. Even speaking about it is hard. I start shaking when I remember all this. It only just has faded away a little, and you made me recall it again».
Sergey Lyapin, 52 year-old
On 25 April 2008, Ilyinogorskoye settlement of the Nizhny Novgorod region
Cause: Lyapin was apprehended in the evening when he was collecting the scrap metal. The police officers suspected him of thefts from the garages, which the area's dwellers complained about, so they applied torture in order to obtain his confession.
Torture: «We enter the room, the police officer handcuffs my hands from the back and makes me sit on the floor. Then he uses a wrestlers' belt to tie my feet together, then he throws the belts over my shoulders, pry up my arms and pulls them back. At first he is just pulling, so that my feet are pulled forward and my arms are pulled up so that my joints are nearly dislocated. He sits on my shoulders, starts to pull the belt and makes it shorter. I tell him "What on earth are you doing, what do you need?" I explained to him that all this was far from pleasant, to put it mildly. He answered: "It was Abwehr, now Gestapo will come". Was it a strange type of boasting? What was he boasting about?
Then the other one arrives, he has some device colored in green, I saw that when I was at reservist, it generates electrical current. He goes: "Take away your old belt. I have a better contraption". He gets out this small new box. "That is the tool one should have!"
They made me sit on a chair, they are preparing their device, hooking up some wires to it, and then they put it up on a chair, too. Naked wires are attached to my slender fingers, here are the traces, I had wounds here after that. The one who brought the device was turning it, the other one was sitting on me — because when the electrical current is supplied the body starts to contract and one involuntary is trying to straighten up. I hit my head against the wall several times. They pulled me further from the wall and started to turn a dial. Then the other police officer wanted to try turning a dial, too. So they switched. One of them suggested to pour water on me. I remember that at that moment a thought came to my head that they might have had good marks at school. They had a glass of water and poured it on my head and my arms, and then began turning a dial again. I passed out several times.
The investigator starts questioning: "Come on, tell everything - how, where, what and when?" I'm standing, keeping silent, having no idea what to answer. She goes: "I won't take him: he is silent. Until he talks he's yours". Again tortures, I figured.
She had a computer on the table and a pack of different case documents. She starts: have you been here and there on such and such date? Well, I was. Did you take it? I did. She prints. She printed five or six case folders like that. I'm thinking, she is going to put everything on me. She opens another case: have you been here and there? I'm silent. She says to the officer who was sitting there: "He went silent, take him back, rework it"».
Consequences: Cerebral consussion, concussion of the neck area, thermal burns of both hands.
Case status: The criminal case against Lyapin, on which he incriminated himself, was closed due to conciliation of parties. Ten times the investigators issued refusals to initiate proceedings against the police officers who were torturing him. In 2014 the ECHR awarded Lyapin compensation in the amount of 45 thousand euro. Only after this decision and human rights defenders' complaint to the Supreme Court the case was initiated in the end, but the pace of the investigation is rather slow. «The Dzerzhinsky Investigative Department is trying to sabotage this case even now», — the Committee for Prevention of Torture member Albert Kuznetsov comments.
At present: «I go through it all the time again and again, the last time it was in great detail, when the face-to-face confrontation was made on the spot where it happened, it was about three weeks ago. I have not been there since that time».
About the police: «There are some people — but I don't think they are too smart who are saying: "The police are bastards". I don't think it's right: anyway, willing or not — you go to them. I still hope that a large percentage of normal people are there.
One of the operative officers told me: "Now a man will come, you should beware; his garage was ransacked for over a hundred thousand". He calls this guy: "Come over, we've caught one guy here, he signs up everything". And the other replies: "Is that the one whom you tortured with electricity? Go to hell". And he never went anywhere. He was a head of police department in the other settlement. It's just the he was smart enough».
Aleksey Soukhov, 35 year-old
29 August 2011, settlement Prigorodny of the Orenburg region
Torture: «I was walking home, but I never made it. It was about midday. Two men in civilian clothes stroke me down and started to pinch me and hit me. They put some grass in my pocket. I wanted to see what's in there, and they hit me immediately. Then they took me to the cemetery, told me they were going to bury me. Then they brought me to the police department. I asked to call the ambulance, but they never did. They damaged my head very badly».
Reason: Not far from the abandoned farm marijuana grew. As the Soukhov's family neighbor told in court the police officers regularly set up an ambush there. The woman saw the police officers beating up Aleksey and how one of the police officers went to pick up some marijuana, probably, to plant it in the detainee's pocket.
Consequences: Closed craniocerebral injury, cerebral concussion, hematomas of soft tissues, extravasation in the eye area, subconjunctival hemorrhaging in the left eye.
Case status: Soukhov was charged with storing narcotic substances; later on the case was closed for absence of a criminal act. The criminal case against the police officers was initiated only in 2014, before that a number of refusals were issued. As a result Aleksey Reshetilov and Konstantin Sinyagin were sentenced to 3.5 years of the penal colony.
At the present time: Aleksey's eye is seriously damaged, he has continuous headaches, arrythmia; suffers from pressure jumps.
Oleg Elchaninov, 48 years old
2 December 2006, Leninsky District Department of the Interior of Orenburg
Cause: Elchaninov and his one-legged mate Motkov were accused of raping the girl whom with they were drinking. At the police department Elchaninov was forced to sign a full confession.
Torture: «They made me sit on a chair with a high back, handcuffed me with my hands beyond the chair back. [Police officer] Mikhaylenko stepped on handcuffs with his foot so that I don't fall from the beating. They took a baseball bat from under the safe and started to hit me on the parts of the body which were covered by clothes. In the result of such soft and dull hits a hematoma developed on my head, there was a swelling and bruises under the hair. And they were talking some rot in a dull tone of voice — they were doing everything so that I confessed and repented.
They were beating me up, putting a plastic bag over my head, choking me, hitting me in the chest, practicing their combat skills that they acquired in Chechnya. I figured that because they told me that if I don't confess they would make me a "Chechen tail". Later I was told what it was, but let them explain it themselves.
When they removed a plastic bag from my head [officer] Makarov used a wide belt fold in two to hit my head in such a way that my skin was pulled from my skull. Flying type of hits, very painful. And in one moment I realized that they are hitting the hair area so that the face does not have bruises, and I raised my head and the bat hit my eyebrow. The eyebrow got dissected, I was in a white shirt and it got covered with blood. They said: "Look, he spoilt his face". Makarov said: no big deal, now we'll break his nose and then tell that he fell from the stairs. I was raised from the chair, he put one of his hands next to my shoulder bone, with the other hand he took my head and hit me against the table. But I managed to turn my head and it was not the nose that got damaged, but the eyebrow again. The second eyebrow started to bleed. The table collapsed, because they had been beating up someone on it before and the table was rather fragile at that point.
I fell on the floor, they started to hit me and kick me, started to take the jeans off me, in order to make a "Chechen tail", as I realized. But I had a semiautomatic belt and when I fully puffed out my abdomen they could not quickly close it. Of course I was shouting. It was late at night, and the head of the department ran in: "Stop it! We already have the material against him. That's enough". I remember these words clearly. And they stopped».
Consequences: Contused wounds of the eyebrow, extravasations on the chest, right shoulder, right cheek, right and left thigh, right buttock, around both eyes, bruise of the left supraorbital ridge, bruises of the left eyelid.
Case status: Elchaninov thinks that the girl defamed him and his friend, and it was a fix up in order to gain possession of the apartment — after the apprehension he was told to sign a letter of attorney for re-legalization of the real property. According to him, no expert examinations were conducted with regard to the case, and the sentence is based exclusively on the words of the alleged victim. The court sentenced him and Motkov to seven years of prison term.
Since 2006 Elchaninov has never been questioned about the fact of violence applied to him and the bodily injuries registered by the doctors and the court. Refusals to initiate criminal proceedings are issued on a regular basis. In 2014 the ECHR communicated his torture complaint.
At the present time: Oleg Elchaninov, who used to be a single father before the arrest, has been deprived of parental rights; his son is in the orphanage, no meetings are allowed and Oleg's letters are not handed over to his son. Elchaninov is still under the administrative supervision which he is trying to appeal against in court.
About the police: «They come to me, they check on me. Already after the European Court communicated the complaint, when Russia assumed the obligation to ensure my security, the police officers squeezed my nose to make a so-called "plum" out of it. Just like that, in a most gross-out way. They said — "Ah! That's the one who wrote to Strasbourg, a supervisory person" — and they made a "plum" out of my nose».
Oleg Krayushkin, 38 year-old
20 September 2012 года, Pavlovskiy Police Department of Nizhny Novgorod
Cause: «I had a power saw, I was involved in timber business. The police officers came to me, took me to the department and claimed that my power saw was a stolen one. I bought it second hand — and they claim that I stole it».
Torture: «First through intimidation — that I have to confess that I stole the power saw. It lasted for the whole day, in the evening I was taken to another department where the interrogation under torture began. It lasted for three hours, I was handcuffed and they hit my feet, soles and especially my heels with rubber truncheons. Two of them held me and the third one was hitting.
These three hours involved many things, including rape threats. Then I was put in the investigative cell, where my bodily injuries were examined, they were clearly seen on my feet. The report was drawn up and an ambulance was called».
Case status: The criminal case against Krayushkin, who spent two months confined to his flat, was closed — the real abductors of the power saw were apprehended and brought to justice. However, when Oleg applied to court with a lawsuit claiming a compensation for illegal prosecution, the case was several times opened and closed, which prevented his vindication. The criminal case against the police officers who hit Krayushkin's heels with rubber truncheons was initiated only in 2013, since that time the investigation went on hold for seven times already, no one has been brought to responsibility.
About the police: «My attitude to the police as a whole changed a lot. Now I'm regarding them a little bit differently because no truth can be found here. This situation is like a vicious circle. Here are the police officers, here is the Investigative Committee, which is involved in investigation of their crimes, but no truth is to be found. In general, I understand now that there are very many people in our country who were sentenced illegally. Because a least half of people would confess of committing the crime had they experienced what I had to experience».
At the present time: «Sometimes I meet the very same police officers. Then I'm all shaking inside. But they try to avert their eyes and each time they see me they go to a different side of the road».
Aleksandr Dmitriyev, 58 year-old
8 March 2011, Police Department No 7 of the Sovetsky District of Nizhny Novgorod
Cause: Dmitriyev was involved in some installation activities. According to the police officers, some tools went missing in the house where he worked. Then the police demanded that he confessed of theft.
Torture: «I'm telling them that I don't know anything. He went ballistic: "I'll stick the push broom up yours!" He started to insult me with all types of curses. He gave a nod, and someone brought me up and took to the middle of the room, then they made an undercut and I fell on my ass. Before that I was handcuffed with my hands behind my back, I still have white stripes left from that day. He tied my feet with a belt and pulled a rope between the belt and the handcuffs. One of them was pulling and pressing and buckling. Then one of them hit my with his knees — in the head and chest, and the other one came over and held my head between his legs, then he sat on my shoulders and jumped several times. The pain was awful. I'm thinking, go to hell, Mr. Boss, I'll sign anything, just stop this now».
Consequences: Cerebral concussion and two vertebral fractures.
Case status: Police officers Vadim Volkov and Aleksandr Sokolov were brought to responsibility; in 2014 the court declared them guilty and sentenced to 5 years. However, in March 2015 the Nizhny Novgorod regional court quashed this ruling and sent this case for review. Now it is being examined at court again.
«They asked me in court, what punishment do you want for them? I said, I don't care, break their backs and release them. That would be fair and just».
At the present time: «I've had five blood-strokes already. As you see, I still can barely speak. I lay on a stretching device, it helped with my back a bit. It still hurts from time to time, and sometimes really bad — for a couple of days. For some time I was in madhouse. I may go out of my flat, go shopping and then it turns out I'm at Avtozavod or even in Arzamas. Memory lapses, and that's it».
About the police: «They are bastards; I'm rushing away from them. Just recently I was walking, got carried away with something, I turn around and see two police officers. "Give us your ID". What is the matter? "Give it now, do as you're told", shouting and cursing and all that. They checked it. "Why are you reeling to and fro when you're walking?" I said, I am a disabled person of group 1, and my illness makes me reel. "If you're disabled you shouldn't be walking about". They always have been bastards. We shall never have order in this organization, never».
In 1997 the UN General Assembly proclaimed 26 June the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. "This day is established with a view to the total eradication of torture and the effective functioning of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, (1984), which entered into force on 26 June 1987», — it is said at the UN website.
Egor Skovoroda, Mikhail Solounin