Russian prison officers fired amid probe into shocking videos, purporting to show rape & torture of detainees in secure hospital

Four prison officers in Russia's Saratov region have been dismissed amid growing outrage over harrowing footage released by a human rights group that reportedly shows staff abusing inmates at a penitentiary tuberculosis hospital. 

Alexander Kalashnikov, the director of the federal prison service, fired the officers, including the head of the Saratov prison hospital, on Wednesday after videos were released online that claimed to show prisoners being tortured and sexually abused.

An investigation has been opened following the publication of the clips earlier this week, with verification of the authenticity of the material being handed over to the country's Investigative Committee for official confirmation.

One of over a thousand videos were leaked to, purporting to prove that hundreds of people have been subject to humiliating and illegal treatment. One shows a man tied to a bed, his face covered, and his legs lifted in the air while a group of men violate him with a stick. Another of the released videos shows a man lying on his front as officers press a boot onto his back.

Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of the human rights platform, told the AFP news agency that "it is the first time that human rights defenders have obtained such a colossal amount of information proving the systemic nature of the torture."

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"If the authenticity of these materials is confirmed, then, of course, this is a pretext for a serious investigation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday, stressing that "first we must quickly, but calmly, establish the authenticity of these materials."

It is reported that the leaked videos make up a larger set of files that have been provided by a Belarusian whistleblower who allegedly served time in the Saratov facility.

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