Russian Anti-War Activist Allegedly Tortured with Stun Gun, Dies in Prison
According to a human rights group, an anti-war activist tragically passed away in a Russian prison. The group claims that the activist, Anatoly Berezikov, aged 40, was subjected to torture involving a stun gun. The incident occurred amid Berezikov’s arrest on suspicion of treason, as he had displayed posters advocating for the withdrawal of the Russian army from Ukraine.
Although Rostov police assert that Berezikov committed suicide, the human rights NGO, First Department, disputes this claim. They assert that Berezikov’s death occurred the day before his scheduled release, following an incident in which he was taken to a forest and harmed with the stun gun.
Yevgeny Smirnov, a lawyer representing the NGO, has stated that the treatment endured by Berezikov aligns with a broader pattern. Smirnov alleges that torture has become normalized, particularly involving individuals accused of treason. These individuals are allegedly taken to basements or forests, where they are subjected to electric shocks, often targeting their genitals. In some instances, mock executions are carried out.
Smirnov added, “The lucky ones are just beaten.”
Berezikov’s attorney in Rostov has confirmed the presence of stun gun injuries on his client’s body a day before his death.
Since initiating the conflict with Ukraine in February of the previous year, the Kremlin has implemented increasingly stringent measures against dissent. The opposition has been banned, numerous protesters have been detained, and a system resembling Soviet-era police informants has been encouraged in communities throughout Russia.
Activist’s death ‘unusual’
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Alexandra Baeva, a Moscow-based lawyer, expressed to The Telegraph that while deaths in police custody have sadly become somewhat commonplace in Russia, Berezikov’s demise is exceptional. Baeva stated, “This marks the first instance of a political activist dying in police custody. Berezikov had previously raised torture concerns to his lawyer, and he passed away on the day preceding his scheduled release.”
Baeva further noted that in Russia, it has become routine for police officers to attribute deaths during torture sessions to suicides. “Prisoners perish due to ineffective assistance, lack of medical care, and can even succumb to torture. Police officers are rarely subject to investigations,” she added.
In April, human rights activists reported an unfortunate case in which the mother of a 28-year-old inmate, who had died in prison in Perm, central Russia, was informed that she would have to wait until 2027 for an investigation into her son’s death to commence. These incidents further underline the deep concerns surrounding the treatment of prisoners and the state of justice in Russia.