Portrait of Vladimir Osechkin, a human rights entrepreneur

Katya Arenina, with participation of Mikhail Rubin, September 11, 2023

Vladimir Osechkin, creator of the website, is one of Russia’s most prominent wartime human rights defenders. In 2021, he published video evidence of torture in Russian prisons that was so compelling that the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service was forced to resign. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Osechkin repeatedly spoke out about the witnesses to war crimes he had helped escape abroad. However, he is not always honest in these stories and in his activities in general, attributing to himself “evacuations” that he did not carry out and secretly making money on assistance in obtaining political asylum.

1. Findings of the police at the site of the attempted assassination of Osechkin

2. Osechkin’s full list of “FSB agents”

3. How Osechkin makes money on human rights defence

4. Osechkin’s ties to security agencies

Русская версия

Version française

Four plainclothes men asked the Proekt correspondents to spread their arms to the sides and put their feet shoulder-width apart. They did not only scan us with a metal detector, but also palpated us, trying to find objects hidden under our clothes. Our bags were also inspected just as thoroughly.

The men who the Proekt journalists did not identify themselves and refused to show their IDs or answer any questions. It was as if the Proekt journalists were about to meet a high ranking government official in his office. In reality, a few minutes later we were sitting at a table with Russian human rights defender Vladimir Osechkin, who had left his homeland for France and settled in the picturesque and peaceful town of Biarritz on the Atlantic Riviera, formerly only famous for the fact that Vladimir Putin’s family had bought expensive houses there. Osechkin invited us here to Biarritz in order to answer our numerous questions about his work in a private conversation. “I will not just answer them, I will show you everything under a non-disclosure agreement, so that you don’t embarrass yourselves,” he wrote in one of his emotional messages to Roman Badanin, editor-in-chief of Proekt. In the same messages, Osechkin told the editors that they were “fulfilling an order from the FSB” and “want to sling mud at him.” It appeared that the conversation in Biarritz was not going to be an easy one.


The conversation in France, as well as the thorough search before it, had a specific reason. A year ago, in September 2022, Osechkin reported that the FSB had tried to assassinate him. Having found no solid confirmation of this information, Proekt asked the human rights defender numerous questions about the circumstances of the incident. Osechkin refused to answer them over the phone, citing the fact that he cannot disclose the content of certain secret documents. That’s how we ended up in France. 

Vladimir Osechkin regularly posts selfies from the beach in Biarritz

Osechkin introduced the people who searched the Proekt journalists as members of a special unit of the French police . According to Osechkin, the guards were assigned to him six months before the “assassination attempt” – in the first months of 2022, when he publicly announced that Russian security forces had allegedly put a hit out on him to “the Chechens” .

Security guards had already been assigned to Osechkin when, last September, during a live stream with Yulia Latynina, he suddenly claimed that he had seen a “red dot” of a laser sight on the wall of his house, and then heard “gunshots”. It has never been revealed whether this was actually the case, who the attacker was, or what the security guards were doing at the time of the assassination attempt. In numerous interviews afterwards, Osechkin claimed that the “assassination attempt” was ordered by Vladimir Putin personally, and compared himself to Boris Nemtsov and Galina Starovoitova. French law enforcement officials made a meagre statement on this, claiming that they could not find any corroboration of Osechkin’s version of events. When he met with us, he said that the French had deliberately issued such a press release to ” drown out the media wave,” and promised to provide a supporting audio recording. He never did.

In Biarritz, Osechkin showed us a document (which he claimed reflected the stance of the investigators) and an audio recording of his conversation about the assassination attempt with a security guard . In translating the document and the recording from French, Osechkin accidentally or deliberately concealed important details. In the recording, which Osechkin advertised as proof that he had been fired upon, his security guard, who was not at the scene of the assassination attempt from the beginning, says that he heard some kind of whistling and that the police then found “small rubber pellets” at the scene. The paragraph in the document, which Osechkin translated to us as evidence that neighbours had also seen a “laser”, actually said that investigators believed that the Russian had probably been pranked by someone . The French prosecutor’s office and court refused to respond to Proekt’s inquiries.

Osechkin, however, had one more argument. He claimed in numerous interviews that he had allegedly been warned about the impending attack by the well-known investigative journalist Christo Grozev. However, this is not entirely true either. In a conversation with Proekt, Grozev explained that his source in the Spanish police, as part of another investigation, had learnt that crime lord Badri “Kutaisian” Koguashvili, whom Osechkin repeatedly referred to as an FSB agent and a threat to himself, was planning to go to Biarritz, and asked Grozev to pass this on to an acquaintance. The Spaniards had no information that Osechkin was of any interest to this individual, and Grozev doubts that the “attempted assassination” was real at all.

This ambiguous story is one of many in Osechkin’s controversial career. The human rights defender, who became very popular amid the war in Ukraine, has long been known in the Russian human rights community as someone who cannot always be trusted. In recent months, this has also been witnessed by several Russian military officers whom Osechkin allegedly helped escape from Russia.


“Another evacuation has been completed successfully. To be more precise, we are not even talking about evacuation, but about illegal border crossing and escape under the gunfire of FSB officers” – this is what Osechkin posted in his Telegram channel in January 2023, describing the escape from Russia to Norway of Wagner mercenary Andrei Medvedev. The post gave many people the impression that it was Osechkin who had carried out the evacuation . But that was not the case. It was indeed Osechkin who made people aware of Medvedev, but soon after the Wagnerian’s story was published on, Osechkin had a falling out with him and accused him of working for the FSB, just like he accused the Proekt journalists.

Vladimir Osechkin’s interview with Andrei Medvedev. Source: YouTube channel

In the end, Medvedev was helped cross the border illegally by other people. They asked Proekt not to name them for security reasons; the circumstances of the evacuation were also confirmed by lawyer Karinna Moskalenko . Osechkin contacted Medvedev when he was already abroad . Another participant in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nikita Chibrin, was “evacuated” from Russia in a similar manner. The Telegram channel owned by Osechkin wrote about Chibrin’s case as “one of the longest evacuations” that was completed. Chibrin, on the other hand, told Proekt that Osechkin’s plan to get him out of the country didn’t work and that he carried out the rest of the evacuation himself .

In addition to Medvedev and Chibrin, Osechkin publicly named five other repentant military and security officials whom he claimed to have helped leave Russia. He told Proekt that there had been more evacuations (“no less than ten and no more than a hundred”), but refused to disclose the exact number or details. Osechkin eventually accused at least three of the five evacuees of war crimes or working for the FSB, and when asked by Proekt about Chibrin, he simply wrote: “He’s gone nuts.” Osechkin refused to answer the question of how he vets security officials who come to him for evacuation. However, during the conversation in Biarritz, he used the word ” fact-checking” at least a dozen times.

Military and security officers “evacuated” by Osechkin since the start of the war

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In addition to news about evacuations, Osechkin regularly becomes a source of absurd sensations. For example, Newsweek, citing Osechkin’s source “in the FSB,” wrote that Russia was going to invade Japan in the summer of 2021 .

In another interview, the human rights defender, citing a “source in the FSO,” claimed that Yevgeny Prigozhin was preparing human meat for Putin. Another time Osechkin quoted insights from an anonymous source – first saying that Russia was going to use nuclear weapons that night, and then reading out a popular Russian Internet meme about “the father of an acquaintance who works in the FSB” . It later turned out that another Internet activist, Vladislav Pozdnyakov of the misogynist Men’s State movement, had made fun of the human rights defender and his “fact-checking”

Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and thanks to lurid “sensations”, has grown significantly in audience. Since January 2022, the audience of’s YouTube and Telegram channels has more than doubled (from 325,000 subscribers in January 2022 to 880,000 in August 2023 on YouTube, and from 85,000 subscribers in February 2023 to almost 180,000 in August 2023 on Telegram).

The epitome of Osechkin’s “factchecking” was his interview with two Russians who introduced themselves as Wagner members from among former prisoners . Alexei Savichev and Azamat Uldarov spoke to Osechkin via Skype while in Russia, which made their confessions all the more sensational: they claimed to have personally killed Ukrainian children and thrown grenades into a pit with wounded Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. The revelations of Osechkin’s interlocutors were spread by the Ukrainian and some global media, but no confirmation of their confessions has since emerged. Instead, it was revealed that at least one of the “sources” – homeless man Alexei Savichev – received money from Osechkin for the conversation, which he needed “to just eat something, to survive” . Savichev complained that no one tried to ensure his safety, and soon disappeared from public view, as did Uldarov . Speaking to Proekt, Osechkin said that both are now “tightly controlled by the FSB”.


Savichev and Uldarov are the third case in our story where Osechkin, without providing any evidence, accuses third parties of working for the Russian security services. There are actually many more such cases – almost everyone who comes into conflict with Osechkin eventually turns out to be an “FSB agent,” a “FSIN agent,” or at least a “war criminal.” Proekt counted more than twenty cases of such accusations. Osechkin did not provide any evidence of such co-operation of those he accused of it in his personal conversations with Proekt. However, such accusations had almost tragic consequences for some people who had been in contact with the human rights defender.

Osechkin’s most notorious scandal involved the first serviceman he helped escape from Russia, Pavel Filatyev. Osechkin accused him of both war crimes and ties to the FSB. It all started over a book. 

Filatyev, a participant in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, spent two months at the front, was able to retire due to illness, and wrote an anti-war book upon his return. He published it on the internet and simultaneously asked to translate the book and accept the rights to publish it abroad. Filatyev wanted to give all the proceeds to Ukraine and was worried that if he was arrested in Russia, he would not be able to publish the book abroad. Osechkin did not respond to the request at first, but when several publishing houses promised Filatyev royalties, the human rights defender’s eyes “lit up” . By that time, the paratrooper had already left Russia and there was no longer a need to transfer the rights, but Osechkin convinced him that it would be easier to transfer the money to the Ukrainians through his French-registered New Dissidents Foundation.

Pavel Filatyev. Source: Facebook

The partnership quickly collapsed, in part because Osechkin’s foundation was unable to prepare an invoice for the publishing house and receive in return the money that was needed by all parties to the process for quite some time . Tired of waiting for the documents, Filatyev tried to terminate the contract with the foundation, but Osechkin refused, threatening to sue him. As a result, the paratrooper went to court himself with a demand to terminate the contract, and Osechkin responded by claiming that Filatyev had allegedly refused to give the money to Ukraine and was actually a war criminal. Despite the fact that the court eventually sided with Filatyev and even ordered Osechkin to pay him compensation, the scandal naturally affected the fate of the book – many publishers did not want to continue cooperation . In his conversation with Proekt, Osechkin went even further: he accused Ksenia Tserkovskaya of working for the Russian secret services and Filatyev’s literary agent. Osechkin claims that she purportedly took a job at the literary agency to “prevent Filatyev from becoming a prominent dissident and joining the team.” Tserkovskaya dismisses these accusations as absurd .

For some reason, the head of decided to complain about another acquaintance of his, whom Osechkin accused of working for the FSB, to the FSB itself.

The name of this acquaintance is Pavel Shchetinin. He ended up in France at Osechkin’s invitation. Until 2016, Shchetinin worked in the FSIN , where the management tried to involve him in corruption, and forced him to resign after his refusal. Osechkin published Shchetinin’s writings on, promised to get him out of Russia and provide him with international protection . But when they started summoning Shchetinin for interrogations, Osechkin provided no help. The FSIN officer got out of Russia on his own . In France, Osechkin claimed that he had already found lawyers who would help Shchetinin get asylum – for €40,000 for a family of five. Having paid part of the sum, Shchetinin began to wait for the promised lawyers. He never saw them, but learnt that the cost of their services was probably inflated almost tenfold. The former FSIN officer wrote an angry letter to Osechkin, which had completely unexpected consequences for Shchetinin.

Shortly after it was sent, the former official was detained by Interpol at Russia’s request. Having sorted out the situation, the French released him – that’s when Shchetinin found out that it was Osechkin who had revealed his location to the FSB, and Moscow submitted an extradition request. Osechkin asked coordinator Boris Ushakov to send a statement that Shchetinin was in France and continued to “coordinate the FSIN corruption scheme” from there, as well as a video of Shchetinin at a French festival, Ushakov admitted to Proekt. Letters from Osechkin to Ushakov and from Ushakov to the FSB are at Proekt’s disposal.

Vladimir Osechkin’s letter to Boris Ushakov, coordinator of
Statement against Pavel Shchetinin, which former coordinator Boris Ushakov sent to the FSB at the request of Vladimir Osechkin

Osechkin does not deny having complained to Ushakov about Shchetinin, but in an interview with Proekt he claimed that he did not remember asking him to write to the FSB. Osechkin also complained about Shchetinin to the French refugee authority. Shchetinin was initially denied asylum, but it was approved after an appeal. When asked by Proekt about Shchetinin, Osechkin now says: “This man was and is in contact with the FSB.” He promised to provide a supporting audio recording, but this never happened.

The root cause of both conflicts was money. Osechkin generally thinks not like a human rights defender but rather like an entrepreneur, says his old acquaintance Anton Tsvetkov, known for his involvement in the pro-Kremlin organisation Officers of Russia. “The only thing on his mind has always been money, money, money,” agrees Mikhail Senkevich, former coordinator of


Most of Osechkin’s acquaintances interviewed by Proekt for this story agree that he is an enterprising man who is able to turn any event into a sensation and earn popularity from it. While living in Russia, he was a regular guest at TV shows and public events, where he “spoke very scathingly about the problems of the Federal Penitentiary Service”, and sought to “capitalise on this talent”, recalls Igor Kalyapin, the former head of the Committee Against Torture (a “Krenlin agent” according to Osechkin).

Vladimir Osechkin on the set of talkshow on the Chanel One, June 2012. Source: Facebook

Osechkin came up with the name, in the cell of Moscow’s Medvedkovo pre-trial detention centre and, as soon as he was released from prison in 2011, set up an organisation with this name. Osechkin was convicted of fraud. 

After moving from Samara to the capital in his youth, he opened a used car dealership in Krasnogorsk near Moscow. The employees of the dealership invented several cunning schemes to enrich themselves . For example, they would sell used cars that had been handed over for sale, but then they would not tell the owner about the sale and keep the money for themselves. Among the victims were local officials . Osechkin claims that he did not know about anything – his subordinates forged his signatures. According to him, the authorities only turned their attention to the dealership because it refused to pay the local law enforcers for “protection”. Anyway, the court found not only two employees of the salon guilty, but also Osechkin himself – he got seven years (but served a total of less than 4 years, having been released on parole).

In the pre-trial detention centre, he started writing complaints not only for himself, but also for his cellmates. One of them even resulted in a case against the investigator . After his release, his cellmates’ relatives introduced him to journalists Olga Romanova and Zoya Svetova, who had long been involved in the problems of the penitentiary system. With their encouragement, the recent prisoner began to go on TV shows and publish columns in Vedomosti. During one of these shows, he personally met Anton Tsvetkov from Officers of Russia and got in touch on Facebook with Mikhail Senkevich, member the Public Monitoring Committee (PMC) . Both new acquaintances were already closely tied to the authorities, and human rights defenders had many questions for them – especially Tsvetkov .

Anton Tsvetkov and Vladimir Osechkin. Source: Facebook

As Tsvetkov recalls, Osechkin seemed to him at the time to be “a rising star of human rights activism”. It was Tsvetkov who introduced the novice activist to officials of the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as to LDPR MP Yaroslav Nilov, who set up the Duma Council for Public Control and invited Osechkin to join it. Senkevich brought the newfound human rights defender to the council of United Russia supporters in order to create a committee for the protection of prisoners’ rights.

Among other thigs, this put on the map for the first time. In order to make things look more credible, Osechkin would often introduce active human rights activists as coordinators of They would then continue their regular work, while also publishing information on the organisation’s website . “There was a riot near Tula, I went there as a member of the PMC,” recalls Senkevich. – I filmed the beatings on my phone and sent it to Osechkin. He posted it everywhere and they started inviting him everywhere, but he never said a word about me. The website worked like a social network: relatives of prisoners and public activists published news there, some of which became very high-profile, volunteers of the organisation forwarded these postings to the public reception offices of government agencies, and Osechkin commented on them in the media, hardly missing a single opportunity to get on the air – he even appeared on the Good Health to You! programme with a story about meeting his wife on a forum while in the penal colony.

Having made the right acquaintances, he severed relations with Romanova and other human rights activists who were then involved in the 2011-2012 protests. Years later, he would explain the falling out by saying that Romanova simply “likes to drink” and allegedly “tried to grope” the young human rights advocate when she was drunk. “He told me back then that he goes to the Presidential Administration every week,” recalls Denis Soldatov, former coordinator of – And once he said that he was given the task of clearing out the human rights field.” 

His new friends helped Osechkin start earning money – they got him a job at Yopolis, a city-wide project by Maxim Nogotkov, the founder of the Svyaznoy chain of cell phone shops . There he received an unthinkable salary of RUB 500,000 a month. Both Osechkin’s large family and his organisation primarily lived off this salary. Apparently, the money was not always enough, and the human rights defender sometimes took royalties for the services of – publishing articles on the website or speaking about a certain case at a round table . “Such signals started coming in,” Tsvetkov recalls. – “We began to curtail his activities related to the council.” 

It was just because of such an incident that Osechkin left Russia. In 2013, he introduced Denis Soldatov to Natalia, the daughter of Oleg Malinin, deputy prefect of the South-Eastern Administrative Okrug of Moscow, who was accused of extorting a bribe. Osechkin promised Malinina roundtables in the State Duma and stories on and in the media, while Soldatov asked her to hire lawyers. Malinina paid not only for lawyers, but also for the stories . As a result, the homes of Osechkin and Soldatov were searched, Osechkin fled, and Soldatov was accused of stealing some of the money intended for the lawyers and was eventually sent to a penal colony for two and a half years.

Osechkin applied for political asylum in Paris, during a transfer, much like he would later advise fugitive Russian security officers to do. In France, Osechkin would first try to make money in any way he could – he would give legal advice for 50,000 roubles an hour (without a professional education , then he would sell Russians real estate in Biarritz . The business may not have been going well – Osechkin apparently even asked an old acquaintance from the Public Chamber if he could return to Russia

A solution was found after some time – the human rights defender began to monetise his own asylum experience. This is precisely what led to his conflict with Pavel Shchetinin, which we described above. This story is not the only one: almost the same thing happened to Moscow businessman Andrei Ivanov, who decided to flee Russia when they started extorting his business from him. Osechkin offered him and his family turnkey asylum for €28,000 . According to Ivanov, back in Russia, he gave a €5,000 deposit to a lawyer associated with Osechkin. In France, Osechkin called Ivanov for a “non-standard conversation” , said that he suspected the businessman of working for the FSB, so he would “write on a whiteboard with a marker” in case Ivanov was recording him, and offered to continue working only if Ivanov would give him money “in cash”, without any receipts or contracts. Ivanov, bewildered, gave Osechkin another €6,000, but the latter still had not compiled the promised dossier to apply for political asylum. Getting nervous, Ivanov scheduled a new meeting. After being asked about the money, Osechkin turned on his camera and started filming the businessman, saying: “Now we have established that you are an FSB officer who wants to ruin our reputation” . Osechkin says that he did not receive any money from Ivanov, and that he changed his mind about helping him because he realised that Ivanov was cooperating with the FSB and was himself implicated in corruption. Osechkin did not disclose any evidence of Ivanov’s connection with the security services.

As for Shchetinin, Osechkin also says that he did not receive money from him and did not promise him legal assistance. However, Shchetinin (and Proekt) has an audio recording that confirms this – on it, among other things, Osechkin calls the interview on his channel a “homework assignment” from the lawyers, which is necessary to “prepare a case”. Such videos are recorded by almost everyone whom Osechkin has helped with asylum, successfully or not.

Other people Osechkin helped escape to France

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In 2019, when Osechkin was already in France, a new criminal case on fraud with insurance for prisoners was brought against him in Russia. Osechkin came up with this idea shortly after his release from prison in 2011. The idea was that if a prisoner who had purchased insurance was beaten to disability or death by FSIN officers, the insurance company would compensate him or his family, and then recover the money from the jailers through the courts. At first he lobbied for such a bill, and when that failed, he arranged to sell such policies with an insurance company employee he knew . In order to receive the payout, the prisoners had to do the almost impossible – obtain documents from the penal colony confirming the fact of violence on the part of its employees. Osechkin explained the purpose of such an insurance differently: according to him, penal colonies would be afraid of the policies and not beat such prisoners. This did not always work . Osechkin claims that he did not earn money from the insurance policies, but merely advertised them and used the money for advertising to pay for lawyers for the convicts.

Like many other things in his life, Osechkin explained the insurance fraud case as a special FSB operation against However, many suspect that it is in fact Osechkin who works for the special services. This may be because Osechkin was indeed connected with influential security officials.


“Related to this are the activities of the Committee against Torture. It operates on Western money… People express their problems with the FSIN and the Interior Ministry to them, they have gotten more than 50 employees arrested… But the problem is the number of employees who have not been imprisoned, the number of compromising materials the organisation has, which it can use for manipulation. Torture is an instrument of political pressure.”

Osechkin at a meeting of United Russia party supporters, Source:

Ten years ago, Osechkin made this fiery speech at a United Russia event, urging the party not to hold back in drafting a new law on “foreign agent NGOs” . In 2012-2015 Osechkin was a regular guest at such events and tried to show everywhere that he was a very important person there. At these meetings he berated other human rights defenders: in addition to the head of the Committee Against Torture, Igor Kalyapin, whom Osechkin first labelled as an agent of the West and years later as an agent of the FSB, he was particularly harsh on Valery Borshchev, an honoured human rights defender and head of the Moscow Public Monitoring Committee (PMC) . Valery Borshchev. In 2013, Osechkin was the one who facilitated Borshchev’s ousting as the head of the PMC – for example, the head of claimed that Borshchev was not visiting the colonies. “He fought very actively against a group of such pro-Western human rights defenders,” recalls Tsvetkov, a friend of Osechkin’s from those years. – He denounced them, saying that they lived on grants, while he was a patriot.” It was Tsvetkov, with Osechkin’s support, who became the new head of the Moscow PMC. 

Osechkin could also count on something in return. When he violated his parole because of a trip to the occupied Crimea , the Interior Ministry wanted to return Osechkin to the penal colony. “A consilium gathered in the restaurant: what should we do? Tsvetkov called somewhere and everything was solved,” recalls Mikhail Senkevich, coordinator of, who was present at the meeting

Nowadays, Osechkin’s stance on Crimea is what his critics recall most often – in 2014, commenting on the annexation on Facebook, the human rights defender used all the Kremlin’s clichés of the time, from “our compatriots” to “rampant neo-Nazis” in Ukraine. even made an appearance at a rally of the Antimaidan movement, which took place at the same time as the protests of Alexei Navalny’s supporters. Osechkin made a speech there “against any revolutions and mass riots.” He later responded to these accusations: he repented regarding Crimea, and attended the rally because of the claims of his “acquaintances” that “armed men would beat up protesters” there, aiming to “stop the violence”. Osechkin allegedly made his speech because “one of the law enforcers switched on a small camera and started asking us questions” . He claimed not to be enamoured by the authorities either: “There was a strategy … to ride in on a Trojan horse to change the system from the inside” . However, this seems to be disingenuous.

Vladimir Osechkin and coordinators at a rally of the Antimaidan movement in January 2015

It is clear from his Facebook posts, even recent ones, that Osechkin is very proud of being acquainted with high-ranking security officials . The most important of them is the head of the K Directorate of the FSB’s Economic Security Service Ivan Tkachev, who supervised many high-profile political cases in recent times (in particular, the case of Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, the head of the Serpukhov District of Moscow Oblast Alexander Shestun, and billionaire Ziyavudin Magomedov). Osechkin had an audience with Tkachev back in 2011, right after he was released from the colony. The fraud case under which Osechkin served time involved Alexander Ignatenko, deputy prosecutor of the Moscow Oblast, who later became involved in the infamous “casino case”. . He was the one who interested Tkachev .

FSB General Ivan Tkachev. Source: Investigation Management Centre

Aleksandr Shestun, who knows Osechkin and Tkachev well, recalls that the head of was keen to continue communicating with the FSB general – and the latter was sceptical about Osechkin and said that the human rights defender wanted to get on shows on the main TV channels through him (Osechkin told Proekt that Shestun “makes up a lot of things”). Osechkin called himself the “key complainant” in the casino case, but he did not actually have any status in it . However, this is also very typical. Osechkin wanted to be involved in all high-profile cases. For example, in the very case of Deputy Prefect Oleg Malinin, which almost got him sent to jail, Osechkin’s colleague Denis Soldatov managed to get hold of an audio recording of a mid-level Interior Ministry official discussing with a victim in Malinin’s case how to make money off the defendants in the cases he was prosecuting. Osechkin published the recording on the Internet and asked MPs he knew to make enquiries. A few years later, he would write that this was the start of the case against General Denis Sugrobov . There is no confirmation of this except Osechkin’s own words .

The loudest suspicions that Osechkin is working for the Russian government so far have been aroused by’s most high-profile publication to date. In the autumn of 2021, the organisation obtained 2 terabytes of recordings from the video recorders of employees of the Saratov tuberculosis hospital (OTB-1) of the FSIN . Osechkin called the leak “a secret archive of the FSIN and the FSB.” The recordings showed some prisoners torturing and raping other prisoners, while the staff filmed it.

A still from a video of torture at the Saratov Tuberculosis Hospital (OTB-1) of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Source: YouTube

The story behind the archive was almost cinematic: the recordings were given to Osechkin by Sergei Savelyev, who had served a long sentence in OTB-1, worked for the prison administration as a programmer, kept the recordings for years, and upon his release was able to hide the disc right outside the colony, pretend to stumble after all the inspections under escort, and hide the disc in his sleeve. The authorities soon responded to the story – which rarely happens in modern Russia – with several criminal cases, sackings in the Saratov branch of the FSIN, and even the dismissal of the then head of the entire Federal Penitentiary Service . The latter leads many to speculate that this story could have been masterminded by some group of influential security officials. “I think this was a special operation by the FSB aimed at removing Kalashnikov,” commented Olga Romanova of Russia Behind Bars .

The files of the case on illegal access to computer information , which was initiated after the first publishings of the torture videos, may shed some light on what happened. Savelyev had no plans to reveal his identity and leave Russia , but after the publishings, security agencies gained access to Osechkin’s email account, identified and detained Savelyev, but then immediately released him on his own recognisance for some reason. Thus he fled to France. In his first letters to Osechkin from Russia, Savelyev wrote that he was ready to hand over the recordings “at the request of FSIN officers for a monetary reward” . Osechkin paid Savelyev about $2,000, but both claim that the money was used to buy a laptop for the transfer of the archive, and that Savelyev allegedly wrote about “FSIN officers” for secrecy reasons.

There is another curious moment in Savelyev’s story. In August-October 2021 — right when Osechkin was talking about the “secret archive” and Savelyev’s evacuation — received several significant payments in cryptocurrency . There were seven very large transfers totalling $709,000. This is more than three quarters of all donations to the organisation over three years . Osechkin said that these were transfers from a major sponsor; he also claimed to have withdrawn personal money from the sale of land plots in the Moscow suburbs to accounts. Proekt is unable to verify this. 

Tsvetkov, who has been working for the Russian authorities for many years himself, speaks allegorically about Osechkin’s possible cooperation with the FSIN: “There have always been different groups and clans in the FSIN. They have always used him as a dump tank – he never checked the information”.

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Many of those who Proekt spoke to about Vladimir Osechkin for this text, including those who have had a conflict with the founder of, recognise his remarkable media skills: he has drawn public attention to violations of prisoners’ rights, for some of whom the intervention of has definitely had positive results. At least a few of the cases of torture or deaths of prisoners that Osechkin described have resulted in sentences for the jailers , and the publishing of the “Savelyev archive” became probably one of the most convincing accounts of torture in Russian prisons. 

“General Rudy, first deputy director of the FSIN, started every day by checking He said that half of it was false, of course, but shutting it down was never an option,” recalls Igor Kalyapin, an acquaintance of Rudy and a “Kremlin agent” in Osechkin’s version of the story.

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After the meeting in Biarritz, Proekt reporters tried several more times to request missing documents and evidence from Vladimir Osechkin. As a result, the founder of once again accused the editorial staff of “working for the FSB” and said that he “does not give permission for [his] name to be mentioned in your ‘project'” . Proekt nevertheless considers the story about the work of one of Russia’s most prominent wartime human rights defenders to be a topic of great public importance.

Editing — Roman Badanin

Fact-checking — Alexey Korostelev