The Impact of the War on Ukrainian Prisons, part II update


Pechersk District Court in Kyiv

Pechersk District Court in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

In Ukraine the arrest of prison officers for extortion is a “small victory for NGOs” reports Mykhailo Romanov in Part II of his blog.

In mid June 2023, an unprecedented event for the post-Soviet penitentiary system has taken place: two former heads of penitentiary institutions have been served with suspicion of committing a number of crimes, including torture of prisoners.

The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) detained the former head and first deputy head of Berdiansk Correctional Colony No. 77 (CC:77). They are accused of creating a criminal organisation, extortion and torture. The Pechersk District Court of Kyiv imposed a two-month pre-trial restraint on both of them without the right to bail. Human rights activists have been raising the alarm about the situation in the colony since 2008.

“According to operational data, almost everyone who was sent to the colony was a victim of the alleged criminals. Currently, the investigators have collected documentary evidence of abuse of more than 30 victims.  According to the SBI website, “The process of identifying the victims of the criminal organization is ongoing.”[1]

The former head of the facility and his first deputy were notified that they were being investigated under part one of Article 255 (creation and management of a criminal organization) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (as amended by Law No. 671-IX of 04.06.2020), part 2 of Article 127 (torture), part four of Article 189 (extortion) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

For five years, the suspects tortured the prisoners, law enforcement officials say: they suffocated them with a wet mattress, beat them with sticks on their heels and buttocks, twisted their arms, and put dirty needles under their fingers.

“At the same time, they extorted money from the victims’ families in return for not subjecting their relative to such torture,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said[2]. He explained that the money was first handed over by the prisoners’ relatives to junior staff who then paid it into the accounts of the senior officers.  They also would then withdraw the cash in parcels to the colony. Depending on the financial situation of the family, the criminals demanded different amounts – from 1000 to 100 000  hryvnias (25-2500 Euros)[3].

The detention and serving of suspicion on the heads of penitentiary institutions is in fact an unprecedented event, as the penitentiary system in Ukraine is a rather inert environment that does not accept change but rather hinders any positive changes and reform interventions. The system remainspunitive in nature and still shows no signs of focusing on helping prisoners and their rehabilitation. In the vast majority of cases, all initiated changes in the field of execution of criminal sentences do not reach their intended recipients, are levelled and dissolved in the systemic and informal internal relations that have existed in this area for years.

[1] SBI detains former heads of Berdiansk correctional colony who brutally tortured prisoners to extract money from them (VIDEO) – State Bureau of Investigation (

[2] Former heads of Zaporizhzhia penal colony detained for torturing prisoners and extorting money from relatives to stop abuse

[3] Business on blood: the leadership of the notorious Berdiansk colony No. 77 was detained

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *