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Horrifying leaked footage from inside Russia's "torture conveyor belt" prisons appears to show inmates being raped and abused by guards.
The clips were leaked to inmates' rights group Gulagu.net by a prisoner who was being used by authorities to document the sickening torture catalogue.
At least five men appear to be urinated on and sexually violated with blunt objects in the footage which comes from OTB-1, a jail in the Saratov region, according to the activists.
Gulagu.net allege that rape gangs were employed by the prison hospital as cover and were used to commit sexual assaults, film them and send the footage to authorities to use in blackmail.
Previous footage released by the group showed one man writhing in pain and tied to a bed as a mop was used to rape him.
Sergey Savelyev, who orchestrated the leak, said he spent two years as an inmate secretly copying the footage. When he was released earlier this year he managed to sneak a two-terabyte hard disk out with him.
Now seeking asylum in France, he told The Guardian: "Everyone had heard about it.
"But hearing about it is one thing, and seeing it yourself is a very different thing… I never had any doubt that this is what I planned to do.
"The system looks like it needs to be burnt down and rebuilt from scratch."
Vladimir Osechkin, who runs Gulagu.net, plans on using the footage to produce a new documentary with the aim of identifying and naming those responsible for the torture.
The film will focus on top officials who Osechkin believes make money from lucrative blackmail deals and order the abuse for fees.
He described how prisoners "themselves become part of the torture machine" by snitching on other inmates in a bid to survive. He added that there is an "honour code" between prisoners, objectifying the victims of sexual assault as "untouchables" thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
Osechkin also said that, since Savelyev bravely shed light on the "pipeline of torture", other whistleblowers have managed to get footage out of four more prisons.
In Saratov alone more than 400 prisoners have now complained about torture, extortion and sexual abuse at the hands of prison authorities.
An investigation was launched by Russian authorities following Savelyev's leaks and an open letter sent from Osechkin to Vladimir Putin. As a result, several officers have been punished and one top official in Saratov resigned.
However, the leaks also led to Russia issuing an international arrest warrant for Savelyev, quelling hope that the authoritarian regime may have turned a new leaf.
If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 08 08 16 89 111 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.
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- Vladimir Putin
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