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A riot broke out at a prison in Angarsk, Irkutsk, in April 2020.

IRKUTSK, Russia -- Top officials at two penitentiaries in the Russian city of Irkutsk have been detained after probes were launched into the alleged torture and rape of two inmates.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service's (FSIN) branch in the Siberian region of Irkutsk said on March 3 that the warden of Correctional Colony No. 6 and the chief of the operations department of Detention Center No. 1 in Irkutsk had been taken into custody.

According to the statement, the warden was detained over "unlawful actions by inmates against inmate Bakiev," while the officer from the detention center was arrested over "unlawful actions by inmates against inmate Ondar."

The FSIN launched probes in February against an unspecified number of guards and 10 inmates who allegedly tortured and raped an inmate with Central Asian roots, Tahirjon Bakiev, at the Correctional Colony No 6.

The Gulagu.net rights group reported in December 2020 that another inmate, an ethnic Tuvinian, Kezhik Ondar, was tortured and raped in Detention Center No 1.

At the time, the FSIN said that wardens at the two facilities had been suspended as preliminary investigations began into the reports.

Gulagu.net’s founder, Vasily Osechkin, told RFE/RL on February 25 that some of the inmates had confessed to beating and torturing other inmates and testified that they did so at the direction of guards at the facility.

Bakiev and Ondar initially served their terms at the Correctional Colony No. 15 in the city of Angarsk in the Irkutsk region. In April 2020, inmates at that penitentiary staged a large riot protesting what they claimed were incidents of torture.

After the riot, many of the inmates were transferred to other prisons in the region.

Human rights groups have cited some of the inmates as saying that they faced beatings and torture after they were transferred to other prisons, where guards used other inmates who agreed “to cooperate” with the administration to force them to confess to organizing the riot.

Activist Oleh Prykhodko, pictured in June 2020

A Russian court has sentenced a pro-Ukrainian activist from Moscow-annexed Crimea, Oleh Prykhodko, to five years in prison on terrorism charges that he and his supporters have dismissed as politically motivated.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram that the Southern District Military Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don on March 3 ordered Prykhodko to pay a 110,000 ruble (around $1,500) fine.

Denisova called the court's ruling "unlawful" and "based on fabricated charges of an attempted terrorist attack and plotting an arson attack against the Russian Consulate in [Ukraine's western city of] Lviv in 2019."

"I condemn the unlawful verdict by the Russian court and consider it retaliation from the occupying government for Oleh's pro-Ukrainian stance [and] his public refusal to recognize Crimea's annexation by Russia," Denisova's statement said, while also saying that Prykhodko has a medical condition.

"I call on the international community to continue its pressure on the Russian Federation and demand the immediate release of all Kremlin critics," the statement said.

Prykhodko was detained in October 2019 and charged with illegally fabricating handmade explosives with the intention of carrying out a terrorist act.

He was charged later with possession of illegal explosives.

Prykhodko denies all the charges, calling them politically motivated.

Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by at least 100 countries, after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted amid a wave of public protests.

Rights groups say that since then Russia has moved aggressively to prosecute Ukrainian activists and anyone who questions the annexation.

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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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