Sunday, February 4, 2024

Ever More Russians are Dying in Prison, Some from Natural Causes but Most from Police Violence, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 1 – The recent death of a Baskir demonstrator after his arrest, an outcome the authorities say was accidental but that his friends and relatives insist was the result of police actions, has called new attention to a dangerous trend in Russia: Since 2010, a minimum of 1330 people under arrest there have died; and the number of such disputed deaths continues to rise.

            There are no publicly available data on the number of deaths among the incarcerated in Russai, Novaya Gazeta journalist Katya Lakova says; and reporting about them is both scattered and incomplete. Thus, there are likely to be far more deaths among this group that even her paper’s investigation has found (

            Her paper examined more than 120,000 reports by the Investigative Committee of Russia and some 5,000 stories in the media. It found that since 2010, there were reports about 1330 premature deaths among those behind bars ranging in age from 13 to 85, with 1257 of these being men and 97 being women, Lakova continues.

            The federal subjects with the higher death rates per capita were Novgorod, Magadan, and Sakhalin oblasts and Kamchatk; the places with the absolute highest numbers of such deaths were Moscow City with 78, Nizhny Novgorod, Sverdlovsk, and Chelyabinsk oblasts with between 58 and 65.

            Last year, 2023, the number of deaths behind bars doubled from the year before while the number of criminal cases brought against those thought responsible fell to the lowest level in the last 13 years, the former likely the result of guards feeling themselves beyond the reach of justice and the latter which contributes to the former the product of Kremlin restrictions on data.

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