Inquiry launched into Russian prisoners’ fancy dress party

Russia’s prisons service has launched an inquiry after photos emerged of toga-clad prisoners holding a lavish party complete with caviar and fast food deliveries, media said on Wednesday.

The photographs, now published across the Russian-language internet, show prisoners at the Serpukhov jail outside Moscow naked except for Roman-style togas and a table piled high with a feast fit for an emperor.

The grinning group of a dozen prisoners brandish cardboard tridents and swords while one is even dressed up as a lion. Another image shows a prisoner gleefully spreading a large helping of red caviar on a piece of bread.

The affair is the latest embarrassment for the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment (FSIN) which runs Russia’s prisons and is criticised both for prisoner abuse and lax control of jails.

“After an internal investigation the guilty officials — right up to the leadership of the jail — will be brought to disciplinary responsibility,” FSIN Moscow region spokeswoman Tatyana Soboleva to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily.

She said internal investigators were already working at the prison to find out what happened.

The pictures — first published by tabloid site — were taken with a mobile phone which is banned in Russian jails and show a knife — unsurprisingly also a forbidden object.

While prisoners are allowed certain foodstuffs from outside, caviar is not one of them.

According to the media reports, the party was given in honour of a prominent criminal boss, named as Anton Kuznetsov (26) who has been convicted of robbery. He is also shown taking delivery of food from McDonald’s from a prison hatch.

The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily compared the scandal to a notorious incident in 1994 when officials at the Butyrka prison in Moscow allowed a number of outsiders inside the jail to celebrate the birthday of a criminal boss.

The Russian prison service is also the target of serious allegations of negligence following the 2009 death in Butyrka of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky which sparked international concern. — AFP

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