The city court in Usolye-Sibirskoye began to consider the case of three operatives of the criminal investigation department, they are accused of torturing housewife Marina Ruzaeva. This is not a rare case for a Siberian city: in recent years, the Investigative Committee has checked about two hundred complaints of torture, but only opened one case.
Usolye-Sibirskoye is a small town with a population of 77 thousand people in Siberia. Since the founding of the settlement in the 17th century, local residents have been engaged in salt production, and in Soviet times, the town-forming enterprise Usoliekhimprom was founded there. In 2003, the plant was acquired by the Moscow company “NITOL”, after which the workshops began to close one by one, and workers began to be laid off. Ten years later, the enterprise went into mothballing, soon it was declared bankrupt, and Usolye-Sibirskoye was included in the list of single-industry towns with “the most difficult socio-economic situation.”
After the namkruptcy of Usoliekhimprom, most of the local residents lost their jobs. Some left Usolye-Sibirskoye or began to go to work in Irkutsk and Angarsk. Someone began to dismantle the enterprise for scrap – this regularly causes leaks of mercury and other toxic chemicals that were not disposed of after the closure of the plant. Because of this, an emergency regime has been in effect in the city since 2018.
A year ago, an anonymous appeal to the Minister of Internal Affairs appeared in the “Police Ombudsman” public group in Russian social net Vkontakte, where it was asserted that local criminal gangs were sawing the plant for scrap metal and felling timber under the auspices of the head of the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Alexander Kuznetsov.
Torture of detainees in Usolye-Sibirskoye, where Kuznetsov has been in charge of the police for the past five years, has apparently become a routine – from 2011 to 2019, at least 197 times were complained of violence by the employees of the Usolsky Ministry of Internal Affairs and the local department of the Investigative Committee. According to the victims, 48 officers were involved in the torture, but after all these checks, the police were charged with only one case – the torture of Marina Ruzaeva.
According to the database of the Usolsky City Court, since 2012, two sentences have been passed under the article on abuse of office with the use of violence: in 2012 and 2013 (no earlier data). Policeman Alexei Prokhorov, received a four-year suspended sentence. The text of the verdict against four more police officers has not been published. These five employees are not mentioned in the materials of inspections from 2011 to 2019, which Mediazona studied, perhaps they committed the crime even earlier. In recent years, only the case of Marina Ruzaeva has come to court.
“You ruined our holiday”
Local businessman Pavel Glushchenko realized the scale of police violence in the winter of 2016, when the police tortured his wife Marina Ruzaeva. Since then, Glushchenko, who used to install intercoms and video cameras, has been engaged in human rights protection all his free time.
On the evening of January 2, 2016, two criminal investigators, Alexander Korbut and Stanislav Golchenko, came to Ruzaeva and Glushchenko’s home. The police asked Marina to go to the department to see photographs of the murder of her friend Vasily Smolyaninov. A friend who lived nearby was stabbed to death before the New Year.
The operatives explained that Ruzayeva was a housewife, she was at home and could notice something unusual from the third floor window. According to Glushchenko, he thought he left her with the police, staying at home with his two sons.
Meanwhile, at the police department Marina Ruzaeva was taken into an office by the police, ordered to take off her boots and sit on a bench. Later, Ruzaeva told investigators that a black plastic bag was suddenly put on her head and her hands were fastened to the lower crossbar of the bench.
-Speak! – ordered the operative Denis Samoilov.
-What should I say? – asked Ruzaeva.
After that, they began to hit her with a shocker and beat her.
The housewife recalled that during the torture the operatives said: “You know that a man was killed. You ruined our holiday ”. They suggested: “Tell us that Vasily began to pester you, and you killed him, and you will go home on recognizance not to leave the city.”
A couple of hours after his wife left, Pavel Glushchenko became worried and tried to find out where she was. The police told him that she left the police department a long time ago. At the sixth hour of detention, without having obtained any valuable information, the operatives released Ruzayeva. She still does not understand why she was tortured.
“They most likely had a New Year, when they tortured me they said, that I ruined their holiday. That is, they needed, in fact, any, even the smallest information, quickly, quickly, hot on the trail, as they like, to find anyone, take him and do the same with him and quickly knock out the testimony so that someone went [to prison].”
The next day, the spouses say, they submitted an application to the local department of the Investigative Committee. Only a month later, investigator Sergei Lysykh opened a case of abuse of officials with violence. But it will only come to trial in four years.
“Pasha, I was beaten, just as your wife was beaten.”
At first, the spouses were afraid of reprisals from the police. “We didn’t sleep for a month, it was just some kind of coma, every squeak of snow under the wheels of a car driving up made us to worry. Everyone thought, they’ll come to kill, ”Glushchenko recalls. Now he, like Ruzaeva, is 38 years old. In the past, the couple were classmates.
Despite their fear, they nevertheless decided not to abandon the complaint against the police – and immediately faced resistance from the security forces. Since 2016, investigators have dropped the torture case four times.
At the same time, residents of the city, who were also tortured by the police, began to turn to Ruzaeva and Glushchenko for help. According to Ruzayeva, in her criminal case, the couple learned how to correctly record the marks of beatings, draw up complaints and a statement, communicate with the investigator – and for several years now they have been sharing their experience with other victims of police violence in Usolye-Sibirskoye.
“Another person calls and says:“ Pasha, I was beaten, just like your wife was beaten, what did you do? ”- Ruzaeva recalls.
She continues: “Of course, we already, apparently, have made so many mistakes, we did not measure [injuries] by the ruler, then we did not talk to the investigator in time to go to seize [material evidence], we didn’t write to someone else. We already know this, we understand where we went wrong. And it began, and then everyone [people with the same problems came to us]. “
In the fall of 2016, Glushchenko was elected to the Public Monitoring Commission and received the right to visit detainees in isolation wards and departments. In 2017, he established his own human rights organization called For Human Rights, and in the spring of 2019 opened an office in Usolye-Sibirskoye, where he receives victims of police violence – residents of the city and the surrounding area regularly contact him.
He is assisted by the Irkutsk human rights activist Svyatoslav Khromenkov, whom Glushchenko met in the penal colony, where both were serving their sentences. According to Khromenkov, it was the criminal prosecution, which he calls fabricated, that became the impetus for human rights activities. He was struck by what he saw in the colony: “the caste system, humiliation, fights with other prisoners, arbitrariness, torture, extortion.”
“In 2006, the colony where I was serving my sentence began to be“ broken ”, forcing the prisoners to march like in the army, which is illegal. I got up, one of the entire zone, and asked [the prosecutor who came to check] if it was legal or not. I studied there as a lawyer in a colony. After that I was beaten with bats by five men. They beat me until I lost consciousness. I thought I was dead, ”says Khromenkov.
Glushchenko recalls that it was Khromenkov who was one of the first to come to the rescue when he found out what happened to his wife. Since then, they have been working together to defend human rights.
“We are more afraid of the police than of criminals on the street,” notes Marina Ruzaeva, who says “everyone in Usolye has [the same] story” as what happened to her.