Massive brawl erupts in Siberian maximum security prison

A scuffle involving dozens inmates has broken out in a maximum security prison in the Russian city of Omsk. Authorities say a conflict between two groups spilled into a fight.

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The confrontation was started on Sunday night by a group of inmates that prison authorities characterized as having “negative attitude.” They were demanding significant easing of rules in the top security prison and tried to convince other inmates to support them. After the latter group refused, the brawl broke out.

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A still frame from a video made with a body-mounted security cam in Yaroslavl Penal Colony No1© Novayagazeta

Several dozens of prisoners took part in the brawl, according to the Russian Federal Service for Execution of Punishment. Some media put the number of brawlers at 50 while others claimed that the scuffle allegedly involved as many as 200 people. At least 20 inmates are reported injured with four being inmates taken to hospital following the brawl.

The rioters barricaded themselves in the barracks at some point but eventually surrendered when the police special forces arrived. Prison authorities say that guards did not have to use any force or special means to calm down the fight and no one of the guards was attacked, yet they put the facility on lockdown.

The demands of the riot instigators were “unlawful,” a regional ombudsperson, Irina Kasyanova explained. The list of their demands included the free use of mobile phones and the freedom to move around the penal facility, she said, adding that the inmates also urged the prison authorities to release those put into penal confinement over the violations of the prison order.

Some news outlets, however, reported that the inmates were dissatisfied with poor incarceration conditions and complained about beating and abuse. “They wanted to attract attention of the authorities,” a police source told the Novosibirsk media outlet, the NGS Novosti. Local reports also said that a banner reading “help us!” was put on a wall of one of the prison barracks at some point but was then briefly removed.

None of these reports has been confirmed by the officials so far. The riot was instigated by “some 12 inmates,” according to Kasyanova.

Police has opened a probe into the incident. The instigators could face additional prison terms ranging from eight to twelve years in jail. The incident comes following a series of media reports about the alleged beatings and torture of inmates by prison staff in several penal institutions across Russia.

The reports as well as videos of alleged abuse released by the media prompted the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Gennadiy Korniyenko, to order all penal institutions to regularly report on conditions in which inmates are kept.

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