The French-based founder and leader of the Gulagu.net human rights group, Vladimir Osechkin, has identified the man who handed him part of a video archive of alleged torture and sexual assaults in Russian prisons earlier this month.
In an interview with Dozhd TV that aired late on October 18, Osechkin identified the informer as Belarusian IT engineer Syarhey Savelyeu, who also is currently in France, where he plans to ask for political asylum.
According to Osechkin, he could not reveal Savelyeu's name before he managed to leave Russia and arrived in Paris.
Osechkin added that Savelyeu brought with him more than 2 terabytes of video materials with images of torture in Russian penitentiaries, which will be made public at some point in the future.
He said that Savelyeu was incarcerated in a prison in the Russian city of Saratov where he also faced abuse. Savelyeu arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport on October 16 on a flight from an unspecified country in northern Africa.
On October 4, Gulagu.net began publishing the first batch of videos that it claimed show prison inmates being tortured by agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN).
Osechkin wrote on Facebook on October 4 that the videos "prove" that FSB and FSIN members are using rape and other forms of torture to force inmates to cooperate with them and that they "themselves become part of the torture machine" by snitching on other inmates or by signing false testimonies prepared by investigators.
Russian prosecutors said on October 5 that they had launched a preliminary investigation into the videos already released by Osechkin’s Gulagu.net, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov promised a "serious" probe if the incidents depicted in the clips turn out to be genuine.
One of the videos posted on the Vot-tak.tv website shows several people using a large stick to rape a naked man who is tied to a bed.
According to Osechkin, that video was shot in a Russian prison in February 2020.
The Mediazona website published three other videos purportedly showing inmates being tortured in a prison hospital in the city of Saratov.
According to Osechkin, Savelyeu had access to videos stored in the prison's computers that were shot in several penitentiaries in the Vladimir, Saratov, and Irkutsk regions between 2018 and 2020.
Osechkin alleged that some 200 inmates have been tortured and raped by FSB and FSIN agents in these penitentiaries during that period, and the videos he has obtained document the ill-treatment of 40 of them.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, Andrei Ivanov, told reporters on October 5 that all correctional facilities in Saratov will be checked as part of a preliminary investigation to see if inmates there were being abused.
A day later on October 6, the FSIN said it had fired five senior prison officials, including the director of the prison where the alleged abuse took place and the head of the regional prison service.