MOSCOW • Russian investigators yesterday said they had detained six prison guards over a video showing officers brutally beating an inmate which was leaked to an independent newspaper.
The group of prison service staff, "acting deliberately, clearly exceeding their official powers, used violence against a prisoner", investigators said.
Human rights activists regularly report torture, humiliation and beatings in Russian prisons. However, the leak of such an explicit video is rare.
The branch of the Investigative Committee for the Volga city of Yaroslavl, where the video was shot at a penal colony, said "today six people have already been detained".
"The criminals delivered multiple blows with hands, feet and unidentified objects to the man's torso and limbs," it said in a statement.
The 10-minute video posted by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper last Friday shows a group of 18 uniformed men methodically beating a man who was pinned down on a table as he groaned and pleaded for mercy.
They also poured water on the inmate's head.
The video clearly shows the men's faces. Novaya Gazeta reported that it was shot in June last year, but criminal action was launched only after the publication of the video.
Rights group Public Verdict, which passed the video to Novaya Gazeta, said yesterday that its lawyer Irina Biryukova, who represents the tortured prisoner, has fled Russia fearing reprisals and has asked for state protection for family members.
Investigators said they had identified all those involved and were going through legal procedures to detain the rest of the participants. They said they would also look at the actions of the prison governor and top regional prison officials.
The video was shot with a portable video recorder that prison officers are obliged to carry, according to the law. The case is not the first allegation of brutality against prisoners to emerge from the colony.
Last year, Novaya Gazeta reported that an inmate - who was sentenced for taking part in protests against the return of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin in 2012 - was tortured there in a punishment cell.