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Ruslan Shamsuarov, the son of a senior LUKoil executive, attends a court hearing in Moscow earlier this year.

MOSCOW -- The son of a Russian oil executive has avoided prison for his part in a frenzied car chase with police that spawned a viral video showing him and a group of friends flouting traffic laws, including driving through a children's playground.

A Moscow court on October 17 convicted Ruslan Shamsuarov, son of a vice president at the private oil company LUKoil, and his friend, Viktor Uskov, of insulting police officers but acquitted them of the more serious crime of threatening police with violence.

Moscow's Gagaransky district court fined Shamsuarov and Uskov 20,000 rubles ($320) each and ordered both to perform 300 hours of community service. It also ordered Shamsuarov's luxury sport utility vehicle to be confiscated.

The court acquitted Abduvakhob Madzhidov, the man driving the vehicle in the early hours of May 22.

The men filmed and broadcast their getaway on the Internet using the Periscope application, taunting and joking crudely about police officers during the chase.

The incident was the latest of numerous high-profile cases that have stoked grassroots outrage over what many Russians see as the impunity with which the rich, powerful, and well-connected brazenly flout the country's road rules.

The group of men were pursued by several police cars and apprehended after hours of driving a Mercedes-Benz G-Class, without number plates, at dangerously high speeds and then abandoning the vehicle near a children's playground and trying to flee.

In early June, the three men were arrested and placed in custody for 15 days for ignoring orders from the police.

State prosecutors had asked that Shamsuarov, Madzhidov, and Uskov be sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Russia's powerful Investigative Committee had earlier sought to charge the men with "hooliganism," which carries a stiffer punishment. But prosecutors instead opted to pursue charges that included insulting and threatening police.

'Untouchable Upper Caste'

Writing on Twitter, opposition politician and anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny criticized the verdict, drawing attention to what he cast as the unfair application of the law criminalizing "violence" against law enforcement.

He compared the verdict to prison sentences, widely criticized by Western governments and rights activists as politically motivated, handed down to opposition protesters following clashes with police during the May 2012 antigovernment protests on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square.

"The son of LUKoil's vice president is found not guilty. The ordinary people from the 'Bolotnaya case' are in prison," Navalny wrote.

The sentiment was echoed by other Twitter users. "The people expected nothing else," wrote one user. Others wrote: "Where is the real sentence?" and "Justice, Russian-style."

Communist Party lawmaker Valery Rashkin questioned why the accused were let off without a prison sentence.

"And if there is to be no punishment, why did they put on this show trial? To show once again that the children of the upper caste remain as they were, untouchable?" Rashkin said in comments released by the party, which has a populist streak but regularly sides with the Kremlin on key issues.

Denis Kirillov in particular complains that patients are frequently stripped naked, tied to their beds, and beaten -- often for minor infractions such as rudeness or refusing to eat. And he believes some patients have died from such treatment (file photo).

MOSCOW -- A former orderly who alleges that patients at a psychiatric hospital in Russia's Tatarstan region are often stripped, bound, and beaten for minor infractions could be facing criminal charges after complaining about widespread abuse at the facility.

Denis Kirillov has been called into the Kazan office of the Investigative Committee for questioning and told that he could face prosecution for "giving false testimony." Kirillov also faces a civil lawsuit from former co-workers for allegedly "harming the commercial reputation" of the hospital.

Kirillov formerly worked at the Kazan Specialized High-Security Psychological Hospital, which is part of the Russian Health Ministry but is overseen by Tatarstan's branch of the federal prison service. Previously he worked at other detention facilities run by the prison service, including a strict-regime prison camp and the Kresty remand prison in St. Petersburg.

Earlier this month, Kirillov sent a complaint to Tatarstan's human rights ombudswoman, Saria Saburskaya, describing alleged abusive treatment at the facility and asking her "to instruct employees about the humane character of treating inmates."

"I felt sorry for the patients," Kirillov tells RFE/RL's Russian Service. "The poor things are humiliated, insulted, and beaten and no one stands up for them. They are too frightened and weak to defend their own rights."

"Patients in psychiatric hospitals suffer from lawlessness more than prisoners in camps or in remand jails. I have never seen such impunity anywhere," he adds.

Denis Kirillov
Denis Kirillov

Kirillov in particular complains that patients are frequently stripped naked, tied to their beds, and beaten -- often for minor infractions such as rudeness or refusing to eat.

"They don't give [such] patients anything to drink so that they won't need to use the toilet," Kirillov says. "They rarely feed them. These horrors take place in a separate ward so that other inmates don't ease their suffering. According to the law, a patient in a psychiatric hospital can be put under restricted movement only if he or she presents a danger to others. And the restriction can only be in place for a few hours at most. But in the hospital where I worked, a person could be bound for up to six weeks."

He says he believes there have been cases when patients died from such treatment. "But no one will investigate the cause of death carefully," Kirillov says. "'Psychos don't live long,' is what they say there."

Kirillov also says that many patients are kept heavily drugged and that "the majority of patients barely move at all."

History Of Abuse

The Kazan hospital already has a lamentable reputation. It has been the topic of scathing media reports for years and former patients have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights over alleged torture and inhumane treatment. In 2013, the Russian government sent the Strasbourg court a memorandum in which it admitted that there had been shortcomings at the hospital.

Officials at the hospital declined RFE/RL's request for a comment, while the Tatarstan branch of the federal prison service said it would only comment after the legal proceedings were concluded.

RFE/RL spoke with two former patients at the hospital, both of whom asked not to be identified and confirmed that Kirillov was telling the truth about conditions there. They both said that they had personally been abused.

"Denis is telling everything as it was," one patient said. "The patients liked him. He never insulted us and he gave us good advice. I thought that he viewed us as people."

Kirillov says he frequently came into conflict with other employees at the hospital for trying to help patients. When he unlocked restrooms so that patients could use the toilets, he was told, "Psychos have to suffer and endure." He says that he was beaten up by fellow employees a week before he quit working at the hospital.

"There are very few normal people working for UFSIN," Kirillov says, referring to the regional branch of the federal prison service. "As a rule, people go there to get a regular paycheck and to be able to act with impunity. Where else can you lord it over helpless people like that?"

"Prison workers must be [professional], especially in Russia, where there is an enormous number of innocent prisoners," Kirillov continues. "People are constantly convicted without evidence or witnesses. More and more citizens are sent to prison for political reasons."

Since he filed his complaint with the ombudswoman, Kirillov says he has received threatening phone calls at home from people saying, "They are waiting for you in prison."

He recalls that when he left the remand prison in St. Petersburg, his managers gave a good evaluation and a warning. "'Don't go against the system,'" Kirillov recalls them saying. ""It will not forgive you.'"

Robert Coalson contributed to this report

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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