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Russian Authorities Say Siberian Prison 'Under Control' After Riot, Fire


A fire broke out at the penal colony during the rioting, engulfing an area of about 30,000 square meters.
A fire broke out at the penal colony during the rioting, engulfing an area of about 30,000 square meters.

Russian prison officials say the situation at a maximum-security prison in the Irkutsk region is under control following a riot by prisoners that was put down by special-operations forces.

The body of one inmate was found in the ruins of a burned-out prison building on April 11, according to Russian state media. The cause of death was not given, but independent local media with contacts among the inmates said the victim committed suicide as security officers stormed the building.

There were no other reliable reports of casualties, although some nonstate media, again citing statements from inmates, claimed that up to 300 inmates had been injured.

The riot broke out late on April 9 at Prison No. 15 in the city of Angarsk. Authorities blamed the incident on a prisoner who allegedly assaulted a guard, while prisoners claimed the incident was set off after a guard beat a prisoner.

After the prisoner was beaten, inmates said, he attempted to commit suicide, followed by 17 other inmates who also purportedly cut their wrists in protest.

No independent journalists or rights monitors have been granted access to the prison.

Videos posted on social media during the night of April 9-10 showed large fires in the prison, and prisoners could be heard complaining of systemic maltreatment.

Prisoners-rights organizations reported that inmates were also reportedly upset because authorities have banned visits and parcels from the outside as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Vremya newspaper in Angarsk reported that 120 prisoners participated in the uprising, and one guard suffered a concussion.

The fires engulfed an area of some 30,000 square meters, and riot police blocked roads leading to the prison and turned away all independent observers.

The regional penal service said the situation at the prison early on April 11 was "under control." It accused prisoners of starting the fire.

The Irkutsk Oblast Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case in the matter.

There are about 1,300 prisoners at the facility.

With reporting by AFP, Dozhd TV, Meduza, AP, and Vremya (Angarsk)