‘Assassins try to kill exiled Russian who exposed Putin’s use of prisoners as fighters’

‘Assassins try to kill exiled Russian who exposed Putin’s use of prisoners as fighters’: Activist claims he threw himself on the floor after spotting laser-sight dot near his head

  • Vladimir Osechkin, 41, said shots narrowly missed him in his Biarritz bolthole
  • The campaigner revealed recruitment of Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine
  • He also leaked harrowing torture videos from inside the Russian prison system

An exiled Russian human rights activist who exposed Vladimir Putin‘s use of prisoners as fighters in Ukraine is claiming he was the subject of an FSB-linked assassination bid in France.

Vladimir Osechkin, 41, said shots narrowly missed him in his Biarritz bolthole where he is hiding with his family.

The campaigner was also behind a mega-leak of videos implicating the FSB security service and prison authorities in a ‘torture conveyor belt’ which saw rapists deployed to break male inmates with sexual brutalisation.

Osechkin said he was warned of a potential assassination attempt by Bellingcat investigative journalist Christo Grozev, and sprang into action when he saw a red dot – allegedly from the sight of the assassin’s gun – on the wall at his home in the French resort.

The activist and his family immediately turned off the lights and crashed to the floor as they had been instructed by security experts, and alerted the police.

Osechkin claimed an investigation was launched into the alleged assassination bid by the French authorities.

‘The neighbours have already testified that they heard gunshots,’ he told Russian journalist Yulia Latynina in a live-streamed interview.

‘I wasn’t hit but there were shots. The scope was moving towards me.’

He claimed the assassin made unspecified mistakes which ‘helped me survive’.

Vladimir Osechkin, 41, the founder of anti-torture website Gulagu.net, said shots narrowly missed him in his Biarritz bolthole where he is hiding with his family

Vladimir Osechkin, 41, the founder of anti-torture website Gulagu.net, said shots narrowly missed him in his Biarritz bolthole where he is hiding with his family

Osechkin was among the first to reveal the efforts of PMC Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine (Prigozhin pictured addressing inmates)

Osechkin was among the first to reveal the efforts of PMC Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine (Prigozhin pictured addressing inmates)

Putin's chef Yevgeny Prigozhin filmed recruiting inmates in one of Russian colonies in September 2022

Putin’s chef Yevgeny Prigozhin filmed recruiting inmates in one of Russian colonies in September 2022

Osechkin last year painted himself a target of Russian authorities when he leaked harrowing torture videos from inside Putin's jails

Osechkin last year painted himself a target of Russian authorities when he leaked harrowing torture videos from inside Putin’s jails

In February, Osechkin posted a series of messages about rumours he had a €100,000 bounty placed on his head, and claimed that the Russian prison service and FSB had found an assassin to ‘liquidate’ him.

‘We got the information that the person with close connections with organised crime had left Russia toward Biarritz,’ he said.

‘I was asked to evacuate for several days, we went for the weekend to the mountains.

‘I insisted we came back after the weekend. My family was in the theatre and I worked with papers in the dark at home. When the kids and family were back we had dinner.

‘While I carried the plates, I spotted out of my peripheral vision a red dot on the terrace.

‘We were prepared for this. My wife and kids spent around one hour in our most safe room, and we closed the blinds. Special services came and the investigation began.’

Osechkin is founder of anti-torture group gulagu.net, a human rights group which campaigns against abuses in the Russian prison system.

In July, he revealed efforts by the infamous Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner group to recruit prison inmates as ‘cannon fodder’ for Putin’s army in Ukraine.

‘Please help stop this lawlessness,’ Osechkin posted.

‘Convicts who have families waiting for them cannot voluntarily agree to this.

‘The state in which the convicts are in the colony does not allow them to make [an informed] choice. Please help.’

One estimate says some 28,000 inmates have been recruited in a campaign spearheaded by close Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61.

Osechkin (left) said he had been warned of a Putin hit squad by Bellingcat investigator and Russian expert Christo Grozev (right)

Osechkin (left) said he had been warned of a Putin hit squad by Bellingcat investigator and Russian expert Christo Grozev (right)

Vladimir Osechkin, Russian founder of Gulagu.net

Vladimir Osechkin, Russian founder of Gulagu.net

Osechkin last year painted himself a target of Russian authorities when he leaked harrowing torture videos from inside Putin’s jails.

One video showed a naked man screaming in pain as he was tied to a bed and violated with a mop handle at a tuberculosis hospital in a Saratov jail in February 2020.

Inmates under pressure from their guards are then shown urinating on a prisoner.

Acts of male rape are also displayed amid claims that all civilised norms have broken down in the Russian prison system.

Guards tortured prisoners who were then forced to torture other inmates, it is alleged.

The horrific trove of material of rape, intimidation and violence reportedly comes from jails in six Russian regions and has been passed to the United Nations and Council of Europe for investigation.

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