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New Times Loom for Fabled Lefortovo Prison

Published: June 7, 2005 (Issue # 1076)


MOSCOW - When Lefortovo is removed from the Federal Security Service and, placed like all other penitentiary facilities, under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, the legend of the much-feared, high-security prison may finally draw to a close.

At Lefortovo, prisoners suffer extreme isolation, and routine prison regulations are followed to a depressing degree. But this also can make time spent there more tolerable, former inmates say.

"I feel a strange pity for the place. After the FSB gives it away, the super-orderly Lefortovo will turn into a regular stinking jail," said writer Eduard Limonov, who spent 15 months in Lefortovo in 2002 and 2003 as the FSB investigated his radical National Bolshevik Party.

Justice Minister Yury Chaika announced at a meeting with the Council of Europe's commissioner on human rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, in late May that his ministry would be taking over Lefortovo and other penal facilities that have remained with the FSB.

The transfer was a condition for Russia's admission in 1996 to the Council of Europe, which demanded that Russia separate investigating agencies from detention facilities where inmates could be subject to pressure from investigators. The Interior Ministry transferred its prisons and other penitentiary facilities to the Justice Ministry in 1998.

"The one who is trying to prove your guilt is the one who is keeping you. He is also the one who eavesdrops on you and collects compromising material on you 24 hours a day," lawyer and human rights activist Karina Moskalenko told Gazeta.ru last week, saying that such practices violate the concept of a lawful state.

A spokesman for the FSB, Alexander Murashov, said the transfer of Lefortovo to the Justice Ministry would be done gradually and no deadline was imposed for its completion. Whether Lefortovo changes, will depend upon whether the prison personnel stay after the transfer is complete.

"Regulations are all the same at any prison, but we manage to keep Lefortovo as a model facility, not like any other Russian prison," he said.

Murashov denied a request to speak with prison personnel or visit the prison.

Hidden behind a high fence crowned by concertina wire, Lefortovo's three-story building of yellow brick, shaped like a giant K if seen from above, has held many of the country's most famous prisoners, from political dissidents of the Soviet era to suspected spies of more recent years.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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