Russia must drop charges against whistleblower behind mass leak of videos of torture, sexual abuse in Russian prisons

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) voices support for Sergey Savelyev, the whistleblower responsible for last month’s massive leak of videos exposing mistreatment, torture and sexual abuse in Russian prisons. The Russian authorities must drop all charges against this Belarusian citizen, who has fled to France, while the French authorities must grant his asylum request, RSF says.

Читать на русском / Read in Russian

After placing Sergey Savelyev on a wanted list on 23 October and announcing his “arrest in absentia,” the Russian authorities are planning to submit an international wanted notice for the Belarusian IT specialist to Interpol.


Most of the hundreds of videos acquired by Savelyev come from a prison hospital for detainees with tuberculosis near the southeastern city Saratov. a Russian NGO that specialises in defending prisoners and denouncing crimes committed in prison, announced at the start of October that it had received 40 gigabytes of videos from Savelyev showing torture and other abuses in Russian prisons.


These videos, excerpts of which have been published in the Russian and international media, document some 500 cases of violence, including about 40 rapes, that were carried out by detainees against other detainees at the request of prison officials.


“While such accusations are not new, this is the first time that videos of torture and sexual abuse carried out at the request of the very Russian prison administration have been brought to the public’s attention,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “This whistleblower must be protected because of these shocking revelations about the prison system. We urge the Russian authorities to drop all proceedings against Sergei Savelyev and we ask the French authorities to grant him asylum in France.”


After being arrested in Russia in 2013 on a drug trafficking charge he denies, Savelyev was held at the Saratov prison hospital for tuberculosis patients and was himself subjected to violence there. When the prison authorities discovered his IT skills, they “hired” him to oversee the prison’s surveillance cameras while he continued to serve his sentence. This was how he managed, over several years, to surreptitiously gather the 40 gigabytes of torture videos that he gave to after his release. Fearing reprisals, he fled to France in mid-October.


Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.


Publié le 05.11.2021
Mise à jour le 08.11.2021