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UN report details abuse and torture in Russian prisons

by SuperiorInvest

Editor’s Note: The following article contains graphic material detailing reports of torture and sexual violence.

A window in the door frames a corridor in the perimeter police station used by the Russian occupiers for torture, Balakliya, Kharkiv Oblast, northeastern Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy | Ukrinform | Future Publishing | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – A report commissioned by the United Nations has found that Russian forces committed widespread abuse of prisoners captured during the invasion of Ukraine.

The message The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found that both Russia and Ukraine captured large numbers of prisoners of war. In some cases, investigators found that Ukrainian forces tortured Russian troops, although these incidents were less frequent.

In preparing the report, investigators conducted 159 interviews over the course of eight months. The message follows a separate UN account of widespread human rights abuses Russia during the war.

Investigators said the Ukrainian service members were stripped of their belongings, including money, credit cards, jewelry, military clothing and shoes, before being transferred to a makeshift Russian detention facility or penal colony.

The report states that prisoners of war, or POWs, were then sent to internment sites in an inhumane manner:

They were often transported in overcrowded trucks or buses and sometimes had no access to water or toilets for more than a day.

Their hands were tied and their eyes were so tightly covered with duct tape that they were left with wounds on their wrists and faces that bled for several days.

Some former Ukrainian POWs recounted sporadic incidents of being beaten by Russian soldiers who had captured, transported, or guarded Ukrainian POWs as apparent retaliation for military failures or in the immediate aftermath of battle.

Conditions in Russian detention facilities have been described by investigators as overcrowded and dirty with insufficient lighting and heat.

The prisoners said they were denied access to natural light or fresh air and were kept in a single cell with up to 30 other people. They also described a lack of beds, toilets, showers and hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, the report said.

Female inmates told investigators that they were subjected to invasive examinations in the presence of male guards during the admissions process. Female prisoners also said they were forced to strip and walk naked in the corridors. Some women said they were ordered to undress, bend over and touch their feet while guards beat them in the back with batons, the report said.

Female prisoners interviewed said that although they were not physically tortured, they were placed in cells near where male prisoners were beaten and tortured.

“They were constantly psychologically tortured by the screams of male POWs who were being tortured or ill-treated. Such episodes lasted for hours and took place at all hours of the day and night,” the report said.

One woman told UN investigators: “I still can’t stand the sound of the duct tape. The guards used it to immobilize their victims and started torturing them.”

Kherson, Ukraine November. 16, 2022A Ukrainian police officer stands inside a detention center used by Russian forces for interrogation, detention and torture, according to Ukrainian authorities, on November 16, 2022.

Carolyn Cole | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Upon arrival at the internment site, Ukrainian prisoners described so-called “reception procedures” that included prolonged beatings, strangulation, twisting or breaking of joints or bones, dog attacks, shuffling, mock executions, sexual violence, stripping, and the use of stress positions. The prisoners also said they were forced to sing Russian children’s songs and were beaten if they refused or made mistakes, according to UN investigators.

The report found that the most common form of torture was “beating with hands, truncheons or wooden hammers, and kicking in various parts of the body, but usually avoiding the head and other vital areas”.

One prisoner told investigators he was captured and held in a Russian penal colony near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. He said that during one interrogation, the Russians “attached wires to my genitals and nose and shocked me.”

“They were just having fun and were not interested in my answers to their questions,” he told UN investigators.

The report added that other prisoners described similar forms of sexual violence, such as “pulling the victim by a rope tied around the genitals”.

Russian guards also inserted burning cigarettes into victims’ nostrils, hung prisoners by the arms or legs for extended periods of time, and applied tourniquet-like devices to painfully cut off blood flow to the extremities, the report said.

Investigators from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said prisoners described methods in which “food became an instrument of humiliation:

Several POWs released from various places of detention described being forced to consume food in harmful or humiliating ways. In some cases, POWs had only 45 seconds to 2 minutes to eat, including very hot food that would burn their mouths and throats.

Others reported having to eat from dirty dishes or dishes with detergent residue, which caused them indigestion.

The investigators reported that more than 80% of the interviewed former Ukrainian POWs complained of insufficient quantity or poor quality of food.

“They said they received, for example, underbaked bread, meals with rotten ingredients or porridge or spaghetti with sand or small stones,” the report said.

Investigators found that some prisoners had lost up to a quarter of their body weight due to lack of food, poor hygiene and disease. In most cases, Ukrainian prisoners were released without receiving adequate medical care.

“Some have identified starvation as the worst suffering in captivity,” the report’s authors wrote.

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