“They told me that if I didn’t become more cooperative, they could do whatever they wanted to me”: anarchist Arman Sagynbayev reveals torture by Russian law enforcement

In this high-profile terrorism investigation into Russian anarchists, brutal torture has been used to extract confessions from detainees.

Media Zona
14 September 2018


Arman Sagynbayev. Source: personal archive.

Since October 2017, 11 people have arrested as part of “The Network” case in Russia — a terrorism investigation into anti-fascists and anarchists. According to investigators, these men were members of an organisation that planned to provoke the “further destabilisation of the political climate in the country” during the Russian presidential elections and Football World Cup. Cells of the organisation were allegedly operating in Moscow, St Petersburg, Penza and Belarus.

Several of the men detained have reported being tortured into confessing to charges at the hands of the FSB. For example, software engineer Viktor Filinkov, who was abducted from St Petersburg Pulkovo airport in January 2018, describes in detail how he was tortured into learning a false confession in a minivan on the outskirts of the city.

Arman Sagynbayev, 26, was arrested as part of “The Network” case in St Petersburg in November 2017. Sagynbayev, who previously ran a vegan food business, recently withdrew his confession to the charges in court. He stated that he was forced to incriminate himself and others under torture. Russian media outlet MediaZona publishes a lawyer’s examination of Sagynbayev, and we translate his testimony here.


In November 2017, FSB operatives applied forbidden methods of investigation (torture) to me under the following conditions.

On 5 November 2017, at approximately six o’clock in the morning, someone rang the bell at the apartment in [...] in St Petersburg where I was at that moment in time. I opened the door, as behind the door I was told that the district police officer was outside. As soon as I opened the door, at least four men burst into the room. They began shouting that they were from the FSB, placed a firearm (pistol) against my face, and then put me facing the wall, having handcuffed my hands behind my back. These persons then began conducting a search of the apartment.

After the search, I was taken to a burgundy minivan parked outside the apartment block. I can’t name the brand or model of the car. In this car, the men put a fabric bag over my head, and one man began to beat me in the body and head to make me tell them my real address in St Petersburg.

Through the bag on my head I could see that the man beating me was of thick build, he had light blue eyes, and I also saw a tattoo “For VDV” [VDV is the acronym for Russia’s paratroopers - ed] on the back of his left hand. I later heard that other FSB operatives named him [xxx].

Unable to withstand the blows, I told them my real address in St Petersburg… They took me to this apartment, where these same persons conducted a search without any documents or witnesses.

After this search, I was again put in the minivan, where they placed the bag over my head. At one point I realised that I was being taken out of St Petersburg, but I couldn’t guess where. Throughout the entire journey I sat with a bag over my head and in handcuffs.

During the journey, I saw through the bag that the man with the “For VDV” tattoo, who had previously beaten me, had brought a box, which was of a brown colour, out from under his seat. There were two buttons on the box — I can’t say what they did, perhaps they regulated the strength of the electric current. The box had two cables running out of it, which they attached to my thumbs. They told me that they were going to check if there was current or not. After this I experienced incredible pain. I realised that they had started shocking me. At the same time, the people in the car began to ask me various questions, including the names and surnames of people I didn’t know, and if I said I didn’t know them, they shocked me.

They also beat me round the head with force using some kind of object which looked like a diary. When these men understood that I did not recognise the people they were talking about, they started asking other questions, including about how to make explosives, and what the names were of chemical and technical components for these devices. When my answers didn’t satisfy them, they beat me over the head and shocked me until I gave the answers they wanted. They also told me that if I didn’t become more cooperative, they could do whatever they wanted to me and people close to me, and that they would not have to answer for any of it, because I was a terrorist. They told me that they could [gang] rape my girlfriend [...], cut off my hands and hers, and burn me with a soldering iron.

All this torture lasted for roughly four hours, but I can’t be sure, I couldn’t follow the time, and I was in a lot of pain.

When I was delivered to Penza Regional Pre-Trial Detention Prison No. 1, there were marks on my hands from the shocks, but no one paid any attention, and they were not recorded when I was examined. Since my arrival at Pre-Trial Detention Prison No. 1, I have not been subject to any unlawful actions — beating, torture and so on.

Being afraid for the lives of my close relatives, for the life of [xxx] and my own life, the state of my health, which has deteriorated in the course of a serious medical condition, I, as a result of the torture applied to me, gave evidence against [Dmitry] Pchelintsev [another defendant in the Network case] and myself regarding the organisation of the “Network”, which in fact does not correspond to reality.

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