Moscow Struggling To Cope With Ever More Uprisings In Prisons And Camps – OpEd


The Russian penal authorities say that the number of uprisings by prisoners has increased over the last four years, that prisoners are increasingly aggressive, and that their revolts are having a negative impact on the population in neighboring areas. To combat these rising, the authorities want more airplanes to move more police to the sites of such revolts.

This acknowledgement is doubly significant: On the one hand, it suggests that Moscow now faces a problem so large in this sector that the authorities have concluded they cannot remain silent about it. And on the other, it shows that Russia’s security services are too small and the country’s infrastructure too weak to handle these revolts without extraordinary measures.

Russian justice ministry officials told the Interfax news agency that the number of mass prison uprisings in the country’s camps and detention centers grew from 12 in 2012 to 19 in 2015 and has already reached nine during the first half of this year ( and

According to the justice ministry, those taking part in the revolts are “ever more sophisticated and aggressive” in their actions, often directly attacking the prison administrators and using force and unspecified “special means to discredit the activity of the penal system in the eyes of society.”

“As a rule,” the ministry continues, “the illegal actions generate a broad social resonance and threaten the security of citizens both in the population point where the penal institution is located and in the subject of the Russian Federation as a whole.” Consequently, the penal authorities want to be able to bring to bear more force to end such revolts early on.

What they seek, the ministry says, is an arrangement whereby the penal authorities will be able to call for the use of aircraft to carry officers specially trained to cope with “mass disorders.” That lack of such planes now, it adds, “does not allow in the shortest possible time to throw additional forces” against those who stage these revolts.

This is a particular problem “in distant regions which do not have their corresponding transport infrastructure such as Kaliningrad, Sakhalin, Sakha, Kamchatka and a number of other subjects” of the federation, the ministry says. It also wants boats to be made available to its forces when that they are more appropriate, a devastating commentary on Russia’s road system.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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