Sergey Romanov, the lawyer of the Committee for Prevention of Torture says: “Perhaps, many of you have read the news that we decided to help the investigating process and announced a bounty in the amount of three hundred thousand roubles for the information which will help arrest Vasily Voloshin, the former head of Penal Colony No. 14 (Nizhny Novgorod region, Sukhobezvodnoe settlement) and pasted up corresponding posters informing that Voloshin is on the wanted list. Our lawyers share their impressions after communication with local residents:
“We met only one resident, quite an elderly one, who could not say anything about the former head of the colony. All other residents of Sukkhobezvodnoe settlement know Voloshin, there were a lot of them and they shared their opinions quite willingly. All of them were rather negative.
A woman with a beer: “Voloshin is a rascal, everyone knows that. He soiled the life of so many people! But he is not in Sukhobezvodnoe settlement. When all this began, he fled at once”.
A woman with a bicycle: “Of course, we know Voloshin. But you will not find him here, he is in Ukraine”.
A woman leaving home on her way to the drug store: “Voloshin is a bandit, everyone knows him. I watched the TV and they say he is in Ukraine now.”
A woman in the side street: “He is a jerk!”
A man: “Why did you start your search from the ground floor? Why not from the Directorate? This was happening in the colony for a long time and everyone knew everything. But you are looking in the wrong place. You should look among senior management, they know where to find Voloshin. If Voloshin is punished for just one swindler who died, then something will change. If they manage to arrest him and bring him here for an investigative experiment, then it’s a different matter”. We were astonished by the amount of information he had, and he surprised us when he learnt which organization we represent: “Against Torture? No, this is not what is really needed. Tortures have always been used in the colony and they always will be. Go to Yelets, there is a colony there, very similar to Penal Colony No. 14, and its name is also used to scare people”.
His friend: “There have been no tortures in the colony”. After my description of several cases that happened in Penal Colony No. 14, the person said: “Well, as a matter of fact, yes, there have been some”.
“The settlement is not big. There are few people in the streets. Our work when we were pasting up posters informing that Voloshin is on the wanted list caused obvious excitement among people passing by. Judging by the reaction of the people, the locals do not respect him much. People recognized “Vasya” (the quotation), said unpleasant things about him, some even used threats, and one elderly man spitted on his photo when he passed by”.
“Sukhobezvodnoe settlement does not differ much from other typical Russian provincial territory. It was built after the war in dense forests to the north of the Volga and the Oka river joining. Several streets stretched along the railway station, a park with an obelisk in memory of the Great Patriotic War veterans, the building of the administration and the penal colony where half of the settlement residents work – that is all there is in Sukhobezvodnoe settlement. Perhaps if there were no colony there no one knew about the existence of this settlement apart from its residents and convicts who are doomed to service their sentences here. There are no people in the streets, you can see stray dogs more often, and they are surprisingly friendly. While we were pasting up posters informing about Vasily Voloshin, the former head of Penal Colony No. 14 being on the wanted list, we could see some local people, but it happened quite seldom, they were pensioners, obviously. No one was surprised that the former head of the colony was on the run, people were quite informed there – everyone watches TV.
When they are asked about Voloshin’s current whereabouts they give the same answer that he had fled to the Ukraine as they heard it on TV. Many people heard that Vasily established a personal power regime (“bespredel”) in the colony, some of the passers-by used quite hard words describing Voloshin. When asked if they heard about tortures in the colony or about deaths caused by tortures, they gave evasive answers, stating that they did not know anything apart from the fact that there were some rumors about it.
Their eyes say that they are dissembling. In general it is hard to suggest that the residents of the settlement have any feeling towards the former colony head, responsible for our visit to Sukhobezvodnoe settlement. It seems to have become a tradition already that people’s attitude to those wearing uniform is ambivalent. On the one hand he represents the law and he has to protect people, on the other hand they remember that petty thieves are hanged but great ones escape. Local people are not talkative when the conversation drifts to the affairs on the other side of the penal colony’s fence.
They will have to live and work there. Lyrics aside, there is a feeling that the territory of the settlement is also a part of the colony only the regime here is gentler. I still have this feeling”.
“Character evidence from the place of residence” is often used in criminal law and procedure. It means the district police inspector issues a statement about the suspect: family structure, tendency to antisocial behavior, relations with neighbors, etc. Judging by the words of those residents of Sukhobezvodnoe settlement that we managed to talk to, the characteristics of Vasily Stepanovich is rather unpleasant. And some of the former neighbors of the resigned head even said that they felt ashamed for Voloshin. But we will not be hoping that Voloshin is ashamed as well and shows up with a sincere confession. We will continue our search”.
“Doing our job we often saw that law-enforcement officers who were guilty of using tortures often had a wonderful reputation among their neighbors and friends. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Voloshin had a reputation of a good man and respected person in Sukhobezvodnoe settlement. But the situation turned out to be different. Almost every resident we met in Sukhobezvodnoe settlement knew Voloshin. And everyone characterized Vasily Stepanovich badly or extremely badly”.