On March 9, 26-year-old Kaliningrad resident Alexander Zakamsky was found hanged in a solitary ward in a pre-trial detention center. A young man suspected of storing an amphetamine was forced to commit suicide (as the official version states) and change his testimony. The man refused his testimonies over tortures, and told the doctors that he had “collapsed”. A couple of days he was gone. Why did Zakamsky commit suicide in pre-trial detention center? Amphetamine, the criminal amber business or the FSB torture? The CrimeRussia tries to clarify the situation.
Day one. Recipes of torture from Kaliningrad law enforcers
In the early hours of 4 March, 25-year-old Kaliningrader Alexander Zakamsky drove with friends to the village of Yantarny, where he stored equipment for diving. That night, he and his friends were going to clean the diving suits, so that the next day they would slog down into the sea for amber. On the way to the village a minibus blocked them, people in masks ran out of them, and immediately began to beat them.
According to Alexander, masked people put on bags on their heads and took them to the garage, which he rented. Zakamsky was stripped naked, wrapped in rags, a bag was put on his head and he was 'interrogated'. According to the testimony of Alexander (spelling and punctuation preserved – Ed. The CrimeRussia): "As I understand, something was found in the garage, and they told me to confess about drugs' origin. I did not understand what was at issue, tried to talk with these people, but they did not listen to me and continued to beat. I was beaten with clubs, legs, hands and electric shock, they forced me to squat, put me on a 'stretch', they beat me with an electric shocker on the genitals, struck electric shocker in the anus, and beat on the heels and threatened to cut my finger off my leg."
Torture lasted until five in the morning. All this time neither Alexander nor his friends understood what was happening and what kind of people they were. After that, they were taken to the FSB department. Then they realized for sure that they were tortured by the siloviki.
"When we were taken to the department, I was handcuffed behind my back, my head was rested on the wall. So we stood together for about four hours," Alexander wrote in his testimony.
After all tortures Zakamsky attended a medical examination. He was examined in the presence of the FSB officer. Of course, the young man, afraid of new torture, said that he has no complaints.
On the same day, March 4, FSB investigator Bykovets announced Alexander the decision to initiate a criminal case against him over Illegal Sale of a Psychotropic Substance (part 5 of Article 228.1 of the Criminal Code). Several packages with amphetamine weighing 662 grams were allegedly found in his pockets.
Human rights activists believe that the investigator of the FSB had no right to initiate criminal proceedings on this article in principle. Investigation of criminal cases under Art. 228 and 228.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation is exclusively within the competence of investigators of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
"Investigator Bykovets had no right to initiate criminal proceedings under part 5 of Art. 228.1 of the Criminal Code, did not have the right to investigate and interrogate Zakamsky, had no right to bring charges against him. Article 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation (Investigation) lists an exhaustive list of criminal cases under investigation of FSB investigators, all parts of articles 228 and 228.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation are missing in this list," said Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the human rights organization Gulagu.net.
Lawyer of the Committee Against Torture Vladimir Smirnov does not agree with Vladimir Osechkin, who, despite his human rights activities, is not a lawyer. According to him, FSB officers have right not only to identify crimes under Article 228, but also to investigate them.
"Part 5 of Art. 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides a number of articles of a special part of the criminal code, according to which the investigation can be carried out by the investigator of the body that revealed this crime too. Is this a common practice (the investigation of cases under art. 228 of the Criminal Code by FSB officers) I do not know. But I know that the FSB does such things sometimes," Vladimir Smirnov noted.
While Alexander was detained, his wife Elizaveta Zakamskaya tried to reach him.
"After a trip to Yantarny, he was supposed to return home at about 8am. However, he never arrived. In the morning I went to work. All day I wrote him SMS, and they were read, but he did not pick up the phone. From 12am the phone was unavailiable," Elizaveta Zakamskaya told The CrimeRussia.
Elizaveta returned home at seven o'clock in the evening. There was a search. In addition to beaten Alexander, there were four masked men, two witnesses and two operatives in the apartment.
"Sasha was very badly beaten, he had cones on his head, he limped. I panicked. Sasha told me that they planted him drugs, he could not even say what kind of substance it was, he did not see anything.
The officers asked me where the drugs were stored at home, turned the whole house over. Naturally, they did not find anything. All the time that the searches were going on, they mocked, they said that the husband will not return home," Elizaveta recalls in a trembling voice.
After that, Alexander was again taken away.
As for the two friends of Zakamsky, they were released the same day without any charges. Now they are hiding fearing persecution. Their whereabouts are not known even by their relatives.
Day two and three. Interrogation without bias
On March 5 and 6 he spent in a temporary detention facility. Elizaveta hired a lawyer, through which she transmitted all the necessary documents.
On March 5, investigator Bykovets conducted an interrogation, where he heard all the details of torture from Zakamsky and even added it all to the record. Almost unchanged. According to the lawyer of the suspect, Alexander clearly said at the interrogation: "Psychotropic substance amphetamine was planted by FSB officers." However, this phrase has changed. Now it reads in an official document: "The FSB has not planted the psychotropic substance (amphetamine)."
After a detailed description of all the tortures Alexander suffered, Bykovets asked him only two questions: about the mental state and whether he had USSR awards.
"Given the fact that the USSR disintegrated in 1991, and Alexander Zakamsky was born in 1992, I believe that the leadership of the Russian FSB, investigators of the ICR and prosecutors should ask Lieutenant-Colonel Bykovets about his mental state, injuries and illnesses. Obviously, the questions asked by Bykovts have nothing to do with the investigation," said human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin.
Day four. Court
On March 7, Zakamsky was brought to the Central District Court of Kaliningrad for election of a preventive measure. Elizaveta saw her husband for the second time in all these days. According to her, his condition only got worse.
"His hands were broken in a place where they were handcuffed, there were festering wounds. I asked them to treat, to provide medical assistance, because infection might have evolve. Judge Alieva, who only entered the hall and had not yet had time to get acquainted with the materials of the case, answered me that they would help him in the pre-trial detention center," Elizaveta says.
The court was attended by two FSB operatives, who were without masks during a search in Zakamsky's apartment. Alexander told his wife that they also took part in the torture.
Despite the presence of his tormentors in the courtroom, Alexander Zakamsky told the judge about tortures, about drugs planting. He also requested the lie detector test. Nevertheless, the judge left him behind bars for the duration of the investigation, as it was considered that he could hide abroad.
"A week before Alexander had lost his passport. Then it was miraculous found in case materials," Elizaveta says.
On the same day, Elizaveta collected her husband's belongings. They were handed over to the accused by the lawyer. According to the defender, Zakamsky did not lose heart and was sure of his innocence.
Day five and six. Rope's end
On the night of 8 to 9 March, Alexander committed suicide. This is the official explanation of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia (FSIN) of the prisoner's death.
"I got a call from the SIZO on March 9 and they told that my husband committed suicide. I was informed that they found his notebook where it was written that he had given me such a birthday present (Alexander's wife had a birthday on March 8. – Ed. The CrimeRussia)," Elizaveta said.
Alexander actually left the letters to his family and his wife, but they did not say a word about the suicide, on the contrary, they were full of hopes for release and further quiet life, requests to bring necessary household trivia, as well as concerns about how many people know about what happened. Why should a person who decided to commit suicide be interested in public opinion?
From the letter of Alexander Zakamsky: "I feel your thoughts about me every minute. Honey, hold yourself up!, it's just(((... Give me, please, razors, soap, chlorhexidine and peroxide (if possible, washcloth, like we had in the kitchen, thin scotch, thread and needle. How many people know about this? Do not tell anyone, hold on, my girl, and I'll hold on... "
"I came to the investigator. At first they told me that he hung himself on the doorknob, then on the window grille. They showed pictures of the place of hanging. The sheet was hung on the window just like a hammock - from one corner of the window to the other. Sasha would simply not be able to hold his ground. He weighs 100 kg, he has a height of 1.98," said Elizaveta.
"When I arrived at the morgue, I thoroughly studied, examined his neck. He had a perfectly smooth track from a thin rope, which even cut his skin," the widow of the deceased shared her observations. “The head of the SIZO Alexander Yuryevich Kopa asked me why I raised such a fuss: "You see that he hanged himself." Kopa said that prisoners are in heaven here. They are walking, they eat seven times a day and we monitor around-the-clock. I asked how Sasha found himself alone in the cell without video surveillance."
Ambitious amber business
According to the wife of the deceased, Alexander had never had any problems with the law before, a fine for the unfastened car belt was his top.
Relatives of Alexander believe that he was chosen as a scapegoat because of business - the young man was a co-founder of a hotel complex in the Kaliningrad region (he had a 30% stake), and also was fond of catching amber, and some unknown persons tried to extort money from Zakamsky, intimidating him with murder.
"Sasha became interested in an amber business three and a half years ago," the widow recalls. “About a year ago, he received first threats: he would be taken to the forest, drugs would be planted, he would be killed. Sasha paid no attention to it... People came to us repeatedly and asked to pay for the so-called 'roof'. They asked for money for amber. 100 thousand rubles a month ($1760). We do not have so much money. The city is very small, and everyone who does some business should peal a few off the stash. Sasha was a man with a core and was not going to sag under anybody. He just put a crimp into something."
Zakamsky refused to pay.
Amber business can not be called easygoing – ‘hunters' of amber are exposed to blackmail, threats and attacks. So, in 2016 on the Baltic coast, unknown people tried to get money from divers, who 'hunted' for amber, for "outlet to the sea and general patronage", and then opened fire at them.
"Catching amber under water brings a good income, in fact. Found amber is given to the knackers, perhaps, they are controlled either by the siloviki or by the people from the criminal circles," source, who asked to remain anonymous, told The CrimeRussia.
What is happening now?
At the moment, the ICR for the Kaliningrad region is conducting an audit of this case. The ICR refused to comment. Also the regional FSIN does not share information.
According to human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin, an investigator who investigates the death of Zakamsky is forced to hide the involvement of the FSB officers in torturing and should approve the suicide version.
Hello, is it torture chamber?
Tortures in FSIN are not surprise. Journalists and human rights activists regularly complain about physical and moral violence committed by law enforcement officers against suspects and prisoners, and torture is perceived so habitually that it is already part of the administrative process and approved by the state in absentia. The CrimeRussia regularly writes about such cases in order to draw public attention to the problem. The catch is that even the problem itself is not recognized, closing your eyes to the obvious facts. The catch is that the problem itself is not declared, screwing up eyes to the obvious facts.
Evgeny, a former prisoner of the Kaliningrad SIZO, shares his memories: "I was in prison for a year, I was there in 2006-2007 and in 2010-2011. Nothing changes: they are still torturing people. You can be taken out of the cell to the cubicle (‘boksik’ - the premise in front of the cameras) or to the office and do what they want. They turned off the light in the entire corridor, so that the cameras did not record anything. They stretch you out, and they (FSIN officers) beat you with sticks, feet, hands. I wrote complaints, but they all went nowhere. FSB officers and other siloviki can ask the FSIN operatives to beat the prisoner. In 2011 there was a case: one employee was fired for having broken a spine to one of the arrested. And story of my life: the boy ostensibly drowned in a drinking tank. In each cell there is a tank for drinking water, any person understands that it is unreal to drown there."
People try to attract attention to lawlessness in law enforcement structures in all possible ways. So, on March 17, 2018, a single picket was held in Kaliningrad; it was dedicated to Alexander Zakamsky too. Kaliningrad activist Ivan Luzin took to public with a poster "FSB tortures. You're next!" painted with watercolors. After several minutes, police officers approached Ivan and disrupted a protest.