Sex scandal in Russian orphanage: Graduate opens up on years of mass pedophile abuse
"I was 13 years old... I have been abused by an orphanage graduate... He took me to an entrance hall of a building next to our orphanage and forced me to give him a blow job. Then he gave me money to keep me silent, and also took me to a sauna. Back then, and also now this person works at a social guest house for orphanage graduates," an orphan from St. Petersburg, Yakov Yablochnik, who is now 26 years old, shared in his letter published online.
His story was shared on the internet and caught the eye of university student Ekaterina Sobolevskaya, who then produced a film titled "My Story" about the orphan's hardships. The film was submitted to a local competition, "Human rights 2016."
"When I first heard his story, I could not contain emotions. Can you imagine such horrible things all happening to one single person? It wasn't only child abuse, there were a lot of other things he had to live through," the girl told St. Petersburg Channel 5 TV.
Her work was noticed by a local ombudsman, Aleksandr Shishlov, who sent it to a public prosecution office and pushed for an investigation.
Yakov's revelations led to "the biggest case in decades related to sexual abuse of underage children," the local Fontanka newspaper reported. For months, a special group of investigators studied social media profiles of those potentially involved in the case.
Several orphans had been "systematically" abused for years between 2005 and 2010, according to the Russian Investigative Committee.
Three orphanage workers, including a former head tutor, as well as two graduates, were arrested in connection with the case. A local court sanctioned a two-month arrest for the suspects. If found guilty, they face between 8-15 years behind bars.
Investigators suspect the group had organized a whole network which has been also involved in filming orphan boys for child porn.
The children were threatened to be sent to a mental health facility if they refused to please their abusers, Yakov told the media.
"Children are afraid of mental health facilities. In the orphanage, you immediately go to the mental hospital because of alleged bad behavior, brawl, any swear word, but in fact [they sent you there] because you refused to sleep with them," Yakov told Russia's Channel One.
There was no one to tell about the abuse, he said.
"Firstly, it was shameful to talk about it. And then, no one would believe you, as you are a mere pawn and he is from senior administration."
One of the orphanage workers, mentioned by Yakov and now arrested, denied the allegations and said the young man just enjoys being in the spotlight.
"He likes to take part in different TV shows, to be 'in the view,'" the former deputy director of the orphanage, Mikhail Yelin said, as cited by Rosbalt news agency.
Another suspect, who also denies all the allegations, is 70-year-old Stanislav Vinogradov, who used to be a supervisor at a special school for the orphans. He had been given an award "for humanisation of the school." In 2008, he also received the title of an "Honored teacher of the Russian Federation," according to Russian media.
The case prompted Russia's Children's Rights Commissioner for the President, Anna Kuznetsova, to call on the prosecution office to check all orphanages in St. Petersburg.
"The main question now is how such serious crimes could be systematically committed against children who are under permanent monitoring and special protection of the state," she said.