Human Rights Without Frontiers urgently calls upon the Council of Europe and the OSCE to send a fact-finding mission to Odessa for a serious and impartial investigation 

  • A female prison guard murdered and dismembered
  • Budget falling short by 60% and prison in debt
  • An Orthodox priest testifies: No water!
  • Court decision: Electricity supplier can turn off electricity

Source: Odessablog (20.08.2017). See full text at . The titles in the text below are from HRWF.

“The current Odessa Prison has recently been in the local news several times.

This summer there have been a few murders between inmates.

Prison in debt

There is also the matter of local electricity supplier having won a court case to turn off the electricity to the prison due to UAH millions in debt.  The prison claims it is under-funded by the State by 60% but that shutting down the electricity will bring about terrible conditions for the inmates and an obvious security issue as CCTV, electric gates etc simply will not operate.

Murder of a female prison guard

However, most notably, on 17th August a female prison guard was murdered within the prison.  She was in fact murdered and dismembered – her body parts dumped in a rubbish skip next to the pig farm within the prison.  Her murder was only discovered about 10 hours after the event.  The offender has been identified and has previously served time for robbery and premeditated murder.

It is stated that the offender had not been living in his cell for some months, but in a workshop next to the pig farm – where he clearly obtained the instruments necessary to dismember the body of the unfortunate female prison warder.

Naturally, of all the questionable and ugly incidents that occur behind the walls of Odessa prison, the murder and dismemberment of  female staff member cannot be hushed up as easily as others – although tales of the worst of incidents always leak out.

Thus this murder has gathered the necessary police attention – unwelcome as it undoubtedly is by the prison regime.

An Orthodox priest testifies: No water!

It also prompted comment on the Facebook page of Dmitry Krasnobaev, a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), who for years has dealt with prisoners at several prisons: ” Odessa prison is something out of the ordinary. So say the prisoners who were in other prisons. Only in Odessa prison there is no water. Only in Odessa prison security guards sell prisoners basic necessities. Only in Odessa prison is such a terrible drug addiction. And therefore only in Odessa prison it became possible what happened yesterday.”  

There are of course other accounts, such as former prisoner and journalist Alexander Orlov, that would corroborate the words of the clergyman.

A reader would therefore not be surprised if such a prison regime vented its ire upon the inmates following such unwelcome attention – and rumour swiftly spread that was indeed the case, with items with any monetary value being taken, everything else smashed, and generous beatings given out.

Reactions of the Justice Ministry, the Ombudsman, Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko

These rumours brought about a denial from the Justice Ministry First of all, I would like to say that we will not answer cruelty with cruelty, never planned to do so, it’s not our methods.  I do not know who the source of this information is, but you were misinformed.  Yesterday, law enforcement agencies continued to work on the scene.  Yes, the regime was strengthened, but to strengthen the regime does not mean mocking people.“ Yuri Maslak.

Mr Maslak went on to claim, probably rightly, that numerous sharp instruments and mobile telephones has been seized.  A standard boilerplate ministerial response to be sure – and a fairly brave one for anybody actually acquainted with the Odessa Prison regime.

Such was the extent of the rumour seepage that the local Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ombudsman for Human Rights, Valeryia Lutkovskaya got involved, with Ms Lutkovskaya posting photographs on her Facebook page of what are clear baton strikes on prisoners following the “regime strengthening” mentioned by the Ministry of Justice.

Ms Lutkovskaya making a rare public appeal to Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko to get involved and posting a photo on her Facebook page. “Yuri Lutsenko, I do not often use Facebook’s capabilities, but this case is amazing. This is a photo of the regional representative in Odessa, made in the Odessa detention center. I know that the regional prosecutor’s office works there, but it seems to me that control must be universal! This is definitely the mark from a baton. Tomorrow there may be even worse. We’ll be there. But will there be an appropriate reaction from the prosecutor’s office?”

It appears that the Prosecutor General has, eventually, responded to the Ombudsman and a PGO Commission will be sent to Odessa Prison.

The Ministry of Justice has made no further comment since its denials that retribution via brutality across the general prison population in Odessa has occurred.

Towards a Ukrainian investigation?

An investigation into abuse of authority is sure to follow – although that naturally does not equate to anything approaching a structured investigation with evidence gathering integrity sufficient to either bring a case to court or secure any convictions.

It is rumoured that the Prison Governor has rightly been suspended for the period of the on-going investigation, though assuredly the Prison Governor will not have wandered around the prison gratuitously beating inmates and be personally and directly responsible for inflicting all injuries received, any more than he will have personally sanctioned the sleeping arrangements of the individual that murdered his employee – yet there is not even rumour that any other prison employee has been suspended.

International investigation is necessary

A reader by now will be aware of numerous cases, some under the watchful gaze of the international community, that begin with much noise and declared intent by the authorities, to simply then be sabotaged, or allowed to fizzle out and quietly closed, or deliberately pushed past statutory limitations.

There are certain embassies in Kyiv that are looking at prisons with a view to reform.  There are also NGOs funded to do the same.  As such are there lessons to be learned from Odessa?  Or are there reasons why lessons learned elsewhere have not been implemented in Odessa?  This is perhaps a case that will therefore be monitored.

(As an aside, a reader may ponder whether the long rumoured relocation of Odessa Prison, which sits upon a large area of desirable land near the city train station, will gather additional momentum.)”


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