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Anton Deinega's home was vandalized.

A Russian opposition activist has sought refuge in the United States out of fear for his family's safety after he took part in unsanctioned rallies in January to support jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

Anton Deinega, who is from Russia's Black Sea port city of Novorossiisk, told RFE/RL on September 13 that he and his family arrived in the United States in early September. He said he has asked for political asylum and the U.S. authorities are checking if he faced threats or persecution in Russia.

Deinega said he was arrested at a pro-Navalny rally in January and severely beaten by police. After he documented the injuries he inflicted, Deinega claimed, a police unit dealing with extremism cases summoned him for questioning and warned him of possible consequences of extremist activities.

Deinega also alleged that unknown persons wrote "Go Away, Scumbags!" on the gate to his home.

According to Deinega, police did not launch a probe into the vandalism although he officially filed a complaint.

"In July, social workers started visiting our kindergarten, asking the teacher of our older daughter about her parents and the conditions in which she lives and so on. After that we stopped sending our children to kindergarten. On August 19, the FSB [Federal Security Service] summoned me and warned that they have enough material to launch a probe against me on any charge they want. I decided not to risk [my life] and in early September I emigrated," Deinega said.

In recent months, several opposition activists, rights defenders, and independent journalists have left Russia, claiming pressure or threats ahead of the country's State Duma and local elections on September 17-19.

Vladimir Osechkin, the leader of human rights group: "The prisoners are holding a mass protest against the constant bullying and torture [at the penitentiary]." (file photo)

IRKUTSK, Russia -- Inmates at a penitentiary in Siberia have started a mass hunger strike to protest the deaths of two prisoners and what they say are widespread rights abuses, including torture, at the facility.

Two sources close to the local penitentiary system in the Irkutsk region told RFE/RL on September 13 that inmates at the Correctional Colony No. 2 (IK-2) went on the hunger strike, claiming that they face regular beatings at the hands of prison guards as part of a system of regular abuse.

A report from the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) to the prosecutor who supervises penitentiaries, a copy of which RFE/RL has obtained, confirmed the deaths of inmates on September 7 and September 9, while at least another 10 cases of the use of force against inmates had been registered in the prison last week.

The leader of human rights group, Vladimir Osechkin, told RFE/RL that he and his colleagues had obtained internal documentation from IK-2 showing inmates are regularly stripped naked, beaten, handcuffed, and dragged across the floor.

"The prisoners are holding a mass protest against the constant bullying and torture [at the penitentiary]," Osechkin said.

Some relatives of the inmates also confirmed that the prisoners are on hunger strike because of the regular beatings and the death of the two men.

FSIN officials in the Irkutsk region did not respond to RFE/RL phone calls and written requests for comment on the situation.

Inmates in Russian prisons often launch mass hunger strikes or maim themselves to protest brutality perpetrated by guards or abuses of their rights.

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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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