MOSCOW, November 26 (RIA Novosti) – A two-day riot by inmates at a Chelyabinsk Region prison was ended peacefully, officials reported on Monday, as human rights campaigners sought details of how the troubles ended.
“The situation in Correctional Colony No. 6 is now stable and fully under control of its administration,” the region’s branch of the Federal Penal Service (FSIN) said in a statement on Monday. “No force was used against the prisoners,” the FSIN said.
Around 250 prisoners at the colony near the Urals city of Chelyabinsk rioted on Saturday, demanding a more relaxed regime and release of several of their number from a special punishment isolation unit.
The prisoners held up makeshift banners including one saying in red letters “We Have a Thousand on Hunger Strike” and another saying “People, Help.”
A group of prisoners’ relatives waiting for a visit on Saturday saw the convicts rioting while standing outside the gate. They were barred from entering during the disorder, but were reluctant to leave, sparking arguments which later resulted in clashes with the OMON riot police. Eight OMON riot police officers of received injuries, the police reported on Sunday night.
Local television station released a YouTube video showing a car with a smashed windscreen next to a family with a small child. “We were yelling ‘there is a child inside,’ but for no avail,” a woman said while her husband wiped his bleeding face with snow.
“The police didn’t give any warning of an attack,” Oksana Trufanova, a local activist with Gulagu.net network, a rights group for prisoners and their relatives, told RIA Novosti on Monday.
Trufanova claimed she and several other people were beaten by the police outside the prison. Speaking outside the prison, Trufanova said she was hit on the head and fell down on her knees. She has been trying to get into the jail since the riot started, she added.
The police said at least 38 people were detained over the incident, and claimed some of them were drunk.
Alexei Sevastyanov, Chelyabinsk regional ombudsman, managed to visit the prisoners early on Sunday and interview some of them.
Russia’s top ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he was looking into the case on Monday. Around 30 prisoners’ relatives remained outside the jail on Monday, seeking news about the end of the riot.
A group from the federal prisons commission, whose job is to monitor Russian prisons for human rights abuses, tried to meet the inmates. They were denied access, in contravention of federal law, Trufanova said.
Prison officials denied on Monday that the prisoners were on hunger strike.
Prisoners at the jail have a long list of complaints about excessive violence and extortion by the administration there, according to Gulagu.net reports posted earlier this year.
“It’s hard to find out all the details of what has happened,” Chelyabinsk Region Governor Mikhail Yurevich said on Monday. “But it’s clear that the system is corrupt and should be reformed,” he said.
Last year a regional court convicted the former head of Colony No.6 and No. 17 and some of his subordinates after they tried to hide the fact that for prisoners had died and eight others injured after being severely beaten.
The riot in the Chelyabinsk Region colony is the seventh rebellion this year by Russian convicts. The Russian prison system is notorious for its severe conditions and widespread human rights abuses.
Opposition activists are calling for an unsanctioned rally outside the FSIN building in Moscow at 6 p.m. to protest against “torture in Russian prisons”.