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In its latest terror response, Russia is no longer attempting to disguise the brutality of its state security

Tom Porter   

In its latest terror response, Russia is no longer attempting to disguise the brutality of its state security
  • The suspects in the Moscow terror attack appeared in court Sunday.
  • They showed clear signs of abuse, and online videos showed some being tortured.

When the men accused of murdering 137 people in the Moscow terror attack appeared in court Sunday, some were barely capable of answering the charges put to them.

One suspect, Mukhammadsobir Faizov, was in a wheelchair and attended by medics. He had difficulty speaking and seemed severely injured, with a swollen eye.

Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, and Shamsidin Fariduni, all had severe facial bruises.

Their state appeared designed to create an impression of aggression and brutality, showing the consequences of crossing the Russian authorities. It would also suit the strongman image President Vladimir Putin seeks to project at home and abroad.

Mirzoyev had a plastic bag still partly attached to his neck. That would be characteristic of the aftermath of asphyxiation torture, where a person has a bag fixed around their head so they begin to suffocate.

Rajabalizoda had a heavily bandaged ear, which would track with an online video seeming to show Russian personnel cutting off part of his ear and then forcing it into his mouth during his arrest.

Other online footage showed Fariduni being tortured, with electrodes from a military radio attached to his genitals and security service officials taunting him.

At the hearing the court ordered all the suspects, who are from Tajikistan, to be detained pre-trial.

The Kremlin has refused to comment on allegations that the suspects were abused, CNN reported.

Though the brutality of Russia's security services has long been known, never has it been so brazenly paraded, say analysts.

The knife used to sever Rachabalizoda's ear was auctioned off on a neo-Nazi linked Telegram channel, according to reports. And Russian authorities have announced that several of the officials involved in the arrests have been given honors, RFE/RL reported.

"It was no secret that Russian security agencies torture people, mutilate suspected terrorists and generally practice all known ways of extracting information. But never before did they openly show so much of it without any fear or restraint," wrote Anton Barbashin, a political analyst.

The abuse of terror suspects in Russia has been documented before. A report by Human Rights Watch in 2018 said that Akram Azimov and his brother Abror, two suspects in a suicide bombing on the St Petersburg metro in 2017 that killed 15, found they had been tortured by methods including electric shocks to the genitals, waterboarding, and severe beatings.

But back in 2017, the abuse wasn't broadcast publicly, and those responsible for it weren't lionized.

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia's security services, told The New York Times the incidents showed how militarized and tolerant of violence Russia has become since the start of the Ukraine war.

"This is a sign of how far we have gone with accepting the new methods of conducting a war," he told the outlet of Russian society.

Videos have previously circulated online showing the torture and execution of Ukrainian prisoners of war, and the UN says Russia has subjected Ukrainian civilians to torture in detention centers in occupied parts of the country.

In one extreme example, a video on Telegram showed a deserter from Russia's Wagner militia in Ukraine being killed with a sledgehammer.

But the treatment of the Moscow terror suspects seems to mark a new milestone in the normalization of brutality by officials in Putin's Russia.

"That the four suspects in the Moscow ISIS concert attack were obviously tortured, some of it filmed, without apparent consequence for the torturers sends a clear signal that the Kremlin welcomes such blatant criminality, as we've seen in Ukraine," Kenneth Roth, former director of Human Rights Watch, said on X.

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