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UN report details horrifying Ukrainian accounts of abuse and torture in Russian prisons

  • November 24, 2022

Ukrainian prisoners described so-called “admission procedures” upon arrival at the place of internment, which involved prolonged beatings, strangling, twisting or breaking of joints or bones, attacks by dog, tasering, mock executions, sexual violence, stripping and 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 U.N. investigators.

The report found that the most widespread form of torture was “beatings by hand, batons or wooden hammers and kicks to various parts of the body, but usually avoiding the head and other vital areas.”

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

“They simply had fun and were not interested in my replies to their questions,” he told U.N. investigators.

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

Russian guards also inserted burning cigarettes in a victim’s nostrils, hung prisoners by hands or legs for extended periods of time and applied tourniquet-like devices to painfully constrict blood circulation to limbs, according to the report.

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 their food in a harmful or humiliating manner. 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 said they had to eat from dirty dishes or dishes with detergent residue, which caused them digestive problems.

Investigators said more than 80% of the former Ukrainian prisoners of war interviewed complained about the insufficient amount or poor quality of food.

“They said they were given, for example, undercooked bread, meals with rotten ingredients, or porridge or spaghetti with sand or small rocks in it,” according to the report.

Investigators found that some prisoners lost up to a quarter of their body weight as a result of the lack of food, poor hygiene and sickness. In most cases, Ukrainian prisoners were released without having received adequate medical care.

“Some identified hunger as the most severe hardship suffered while in captivity,” the authors of the report wrote.

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