Breaking News: Putin Fires Prison-Torture Chief

Dear Readers:

You will recall my previous post on the Russian prison-torture scandal. Now there is some good news: We learn that Russian President Putin just yesterday (November 25) has fired the head of the ФСИН  (Federal Service for Carrying Out Punishments), who was responsible for the daily workings of the Labor Colonies. That man, a former FSB type, went by the marvelous Russian name of Alexander Kalashnikov. His replacement is a steely-eyed man named Arkady Gostev, who formerly held the post of Deputy Directory of Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Arkady Gostev: Has to clean up.
Alexander Kalashnikov: Made a mess of things.

Gostev began his police career back in 1981, in Moscow, as an ordinary beat cop. Besides being a cop, he is a motorcycle hobbyist. In his spare time he fixes up and sells old Soviet motorcycles. This hobby has brought him additional wealth beyond his paycheck. His tax returns from 2018 show him to be the wealthiest cop in all of Russia. Either because of his prosperity, or perhaps in spite of it, Gostev is thought to be the right man to head up the clean-up effort in the labor colonies. He will help the government investigate the awful things that happened there when Mr. Kalashnikov was in charge. Human-rights activists are happy to see somebody being held accountable; angd hope that the new regime will end the ghastly tortures of prisoners, which the old managers apparently felt was normal practice. We are talking mainly about the Saratov region colonies, where, if you recall, a whistleblower was able to provide iron-clad proof of torture and sexual abuses of prisoners. These “rapes with a broomstick” kind of horror were video-taped by sadistic guards and uploaded to the colonies computer network. The whistleblower hacked the files and published them. The first instinct of the government, as always happens in such cases, was to find and punish the whistleblower. But the publication of the tapes found a “great resonance” in Russian society, according to reporter Petr Nikolaev.

Which shows, by the way, that Russian society still contains many healthy elements. If a similar whistleblowing had happened in America, for example, most of the American public would have cheered on the torturers, or turned the whole thing into a big joke.

Fortunately, President Putin is intelligent enough to recognize that somebody other than the whistleblower had to be held accountable; and apparently Kalashnikov is the logical person to fall on his sword, since the buck ultimately stopped with him. [I apologize for so many mixed metaphors]. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I saw an earlier news story [sorry, I can’t find the link] by which the charges have been dropped against the whistleblower; so he could actually return to Russia if he wanted to (he’s been hiding out in Germany).

Can the Whistleblower come out of hiding now?

Meanwhile, the Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament has launched an investigation of the whole messy thing, and plan to increase the punishment for police officials who commit such dastardly deeds against helpless prisoners. Hence, expect to see more cops behind bars. Hopefully. The Prosecutor General will charge such men with rape under Statute #132 of the codex. Already 35 cases are underway, and the investigation continues.

There is more news, and a shuffling of the deck chairs. I almost dropped the lede: The ФСИН itself will be transferred from the jurisdiction of the FSB, and will now report to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Human Rights activist Marina Litvinovich cheers this move: “This decision to replace Kalashnikov with Gostev is a rather strong signal and inspires a certain optimism. In essence, one needs to rebuild the entire system of punitive justice, from scratch.” But other human-rights activists quoted in the piece are still pessimistic. They point out that Kalashnikov did not personally oversee the tortures, and may not have even known about them. Just replacing him with somebody else, be it the FSB or Internal Affairs, is not real change, in their view. But for now, nobody seems to have a better idea.

One thing one can be sure of [I aver, as a cynic] is that the new chief of the colonies will keep a much tighter control over their computer network. Under the overall rubric, “Something bad happens in Vegas, something stays in Vegas.”

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2 Responses to Breaking News: Putin Fires Prison-Torture Chief

  1. Ben says:

    Isn’t there a Dostoevsky quote about judging a society by how it treats its prisoners?


    • yalensis says:

      Hi, Ben, I was under that impression as well, but just did a quick fact-check, and apparently it’s a mis-attribution.
      The book in question is called “Notes from the House of the Dead”, here is the online book in Russian.

      I think I read this book when I was a teenager and going through a “Dostoevsky” phase, but nothing stuck with me, so I reckon I grew out of that. I just skimmed the text for the quote you mentioned, but couldn’t find anything remotely similar to that.
      Then I saw in this wikiquote that this is considered a false quote or mis-attributrion, like one of those things the author should have said, but didn’t:

      The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
      Alleged to be from House of the Dead, but no such quotation is present.

      Oh well, it’s still a true statement and still rings true, even if Dostoevsky didn’t actually say it.


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