The Federal Prison Service shuttles planeloads of convicted criminals beyond the Arctic Circle for hard labor, a news report said.
Video footage from RIA Novosti showed grim handcuffed men in a small plane flying over inhospitable expanses of Siberia, visible through the windows.
The prison service appeared to have allowed a reporter and a camera crew onboard of one flights from a prison in Krasnoyarsk to a camp in Norilsk.
Inmates take shifts working at the northern camp, referred to as one of the country's largest, assembling steelworks for Norilsk Nickel, the report said. The men have reportedly received lengthy jail terms for murder, drug dealing and burglaries.
The video showed a burly camouflaged police officer warning the convicts, "No loud talking!" as he walked down the aisle.
The four-hour flight, the only way to reach the remote polar area, has no food service, but guards give the inmates water and allow them to use the bathroom.
For the 30 inmates onboard the Antonov-24 plane, there are eight guards.
"No conflicts or significant accidents have ever taken place," said Oleg Kozlov, head of the escort department at the Prison Service's Krasnoyarsk branch.
The flight takes off twice a month and collects the previous shift of prison hands on its way back south.