The head of a Russian women’s prison has been fired after inspectors discovered a regime of forced labor that saw inmates work for up to 18 hours a day, officials said Monday.
Women in the penal colony in Mordovia, central Russia, stitched garments for prison head Yuri Kupriyanov as well as his children, friends and businessmen he knew, the penitentiary service said.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the Pussy Riot protest group, was held there until 2013 when she went on hunger strike to protest what she described as slave labor and other serious abuses.
Valery Maximenko, deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, told Interfax news agency inspectors had carried out a surprise inspection.
“Following the results …Yuri Kupriyanov and several of his subordinates have been suspended from their duties,” Maximenko said.
“Women were threatened with isolation and being deprived of food for the slightest transgression,” he added.
Inmates would start working around 7 a.m. and finish by 1 a.m., according to penitentiary service figures published by Russian news agencies.
Why This Matters
President Vladimir Putin addressed the notorious conditions of Russian prisons during his annual end-of-year press conference last week.
“Any violation of the law, especially torture, is a crime. These crimes should be punished,” he said, referring to brutality by prison guards towards inmates.
Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta this summer published a video of around a dozen guards beating a cuffed prisoner in a Yaroslavl facility, some 150 miles (250 km) northeast of Moscow.
The report encouraged other Russians to speak out about their experiences of prison violence.
More on the Subject
Russians who refuse to take down online information that has been judged “false” by a court could be sentenced to up to a year in prison under a bill approved by MPs in September.
The law comes in the context of an ongoing crackdown on internet freedoms in Russia, where social media remains one of the few places the opposition can organize.
Russia has in recent years increasingly criminalized online content, frequently jailing people for sharing or publishing information deemed extremist or illegal, including for calls for opposition protests and jokes deemed offensive to particular social groups.