War captives from Ukraine claim they were tortured in a Russian prison.

War captives from Ukraine claim they were tortured in a Russian prison 10

Former Ukrainian prisoners claim they suffered severe violations of international humanitarian law while being held in a detention center in southwest Russia, including beatings and electric shocks.

Twelve former prisoners who were freed as part of prisoner exchanges told the chatbeet that Russian guards and officers at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility Number Two in Taganrog had mistreated them physically and psychologically.

The accounts, which were obtained over the course of an inquiry that lasted several weeks, provide a consistent picture of excessive violence and mistreatment at the institution, which is one of the places where Ukrainian prisoners of war have been detained in Russia.

They claim things like:

At the Taganrog location, men and women are routinely beaten, often in the chest and kidneys, and subjected to electric shocks during daily inspections and interrogations.
Detainees are routinely threatened and coerced by Russian guards; some have allegedly made false confessions that have been used against them in court.
There are frequent allegations of detainees dying at the facility, and captives are often malnourished and denied access to proper medical care.
The claims have not been independently verified by The Chatbeet, but information about them has been given to human rights organizations and, whenever feasible, corroborated by other inmates.

The institution, which before the war was primarily used to detain Russian POWs, has been closed to outside organizations, including the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In spite of numerous demands for response on the accusations, the Russian defense ministry remained silent. It has in the past denied abusing or torturing hostages.

More than 2,500 Ukrainians have been freed since the conflict began because to prisoner swaps between Russia and Ukraine, a rare diplomatic success in the conflict. Human rights organizations estimate that Russia still holds up to 10,000 prisoners.

Nine out of ten former detainees, according to Dmytro Lubinets, the human rights ombudsman for Ukraine and one of the officials engaged in negotiations with Moscow over exchanges, said they had been tortured while held in Russian captivity. How to safeguard our citizens on the Russian side is currently my greatest issue, said Lubinets. “Nobody has a clue as to how we can do it.”

Senior lieutenant Artem Seredniak was moved to Pre-Trial Detention Facility Number Two in September of last year after being held captive by Russia for four months. Seredniak told me that they were bound together like a “human centipede” and transported for hours in the back of a vehicle without knowing where they were going.

He said that when they got to Taganrog, an officer said, “Hello fellas. Are you aware of your location? Up until the end of your lives, you’ll rot here. The prisoners said nothing. According to Seredniak, they were led into the premises, stripped of their clothing, had their fingerprints taken, had their beards shaved, and were made to take a shower.

They were beaten in the legs, arms, or “anywhere they wanted” by the facility’s guards, who wielded black batons and metal bars, Seredniak claimed. “Reception” is what they call it.

The 27-year-old Seredniak oversaw a sniper platoon at the Azov Regiment, Mariupol’s primary armed force, prior to his capture. He claimed that doing so made him a prime target for the jail guards. Seredniak claimed that he was taken away from the group and brought to a room to have his first interrogation while only wearing his underwear. He claimed that after being forced to the ground, his head was turned downward.

He was questioned by the guards regarding his job in the army and the duties he had performed. They shocked him in the back, groin, and neck, according to Seredniak, using an electric stun device.

He added, “That’s how they treated everyone.” You were pounded like a nail by them.

The Ukrainian government ordered the surrender of hundreds of soldiers who were camped out in the city’s Azovstal steelworks in May of last year, while Mariupol was under Russian assault. One of the last people to be evacuated was Seredniak. After being brought to a facility in the Donetsk settlement of Olenivka, he was then transferred to Taganrog, a prison in the Russian border region of Rostov, roughly 120 kilometers (74 miles) east of Mariupol.

He explained that there, guards would mistreat the prisoners if anything seemed to be a reason for doing so during the hostages’ twice-daily inspections. “They might not have liked how you got out of the cell, or you weren’t quick, or your arms were too low or your head was too high,” the man speculated.

In one of those checks, Seredniak was questioned about his romantic relationship. He claimed to have and recalled a security instructing him to give his Instagram to the woman. We’ll photograph you and email her a photo of you. He lied and claimed she didn’t have an account because he didn’t want to reveal her. He claimed that after being beaten, he was sent to a chamber in the prison’s basement, where he met a fighter from Ukraine in his twenties. Apparently in pain, the man was curled up and grasping his hands, according to Seredniak, who also said that officers had put needles beneath the man’s fingernails.

The Azov Regiment was a previous militia in Mariupol with links to the far right. As the days went by, Seredniak saw that the jail guards were especially harsh with those who belonged to the Azov Regiment. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has stated that one goal of the conflict is to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, which is governed by Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jew. Russian authorities frequently use this justification to legitimize their invasion of Ukraine.

In his testimony, Seredniak claimed that during his interrogations, he was accused of plundering Mariupol and of personally ordering his troops to slaughter residents there, where one of the war’s deadliest clashes had taken place. The assertions were refuted by Seredniak, who speaks quickly and with a strong, insistent voice, but it didn’t seem to matter. He informed me, “They wouldn’t stop beating you until you uttered what they were interested in, and in the style they wanted to hear.

Seredniak claimed that once an officer beat him with a chair made of wood, “beating me so hard that it broke in parts.” He recalled being requested to sing the “Azov anthem” on another occasion. He was unaware of any Azov hymn and assumed the guards were referring to the Prayer of the Ukrainian Nationalist, an oath that soldiers would typically repeat aloud before entering battle in the 20th century. Seredniak recited it reluctantly because he was worried about how the guards may respond.

He claimed that they repeatedly punched him. He stumbled and smacked his head against the wall, cutting himself close to his eyebrow. He claimed that he was still being beaten all over his body while he lay on the ground.

When I eventually stood up, they said to me, “We hope we beat that out of you,” Seredniak recalled.

President Putin’s “de-Nazification” thesis appeared to have had a significant impact on some of the jail employees. This was clear to the captives since the guards seemed especially interested in anything that they saw as being pro-Nazi. Since the prisoners were not permitted to own any personal items, the authorities were obviously interested in their tattoos. This brought to mind similar claims I heard last year when looking into Russian filtration camps in occupied areas of Ukraine.

A week after Seredniak, Serhii Rotchuk, a 34-year-old senior sergeant in the army, left Azovstal in one of the last convoys. The guards “looked for swastikas or things like that” at first, he claimed, according to him. But in actuality, he claimed, “if you had any tattoo, you were seen as a bad guy”. Doctor Rotchuk has tattoos on his chest, arms, and both of his legs. When we first met in Kyiv a few weeks ago, he lifted his T-shirt to reveal to me a raven that covered a portion of his breast, an infantry platoon symbol on his left bicep, and a Star Wars Jedi Order symbol on his left leg.

Do you have any problems because of your tattoos? I quizzed him. “Many times,” Rotchuk affirmed. “They would ask, ‘What’s this? I’ll hit you for that, I swear. Seredniak, who does not have any tattoos, claimed that some combatants who had nationalist symbols tattooed on them, such as the Ukrainian flag or the gold trident, were routinely attacked. He explained to me, “They hated us for being Ukrainian.”

Russia “failed to ensure the humane treatment” of detainees, according to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published in March, with “strong patterns of violations.”

A “long list of bad things that have been done” to the detainees at the facility in Taganrog, according to the office’s spokesman Kris Janowski. He asserted that the mere act of holding prisoners in a prison constituted a violation of international humanitarian law since such individuals should be housed in locations with specific designations. According to the March report, Ukraine was also accused of mistreating detainees occasionally, but overall, they were “treated in better fashion”.

The hostages “lived in permanent stress” in Taganrog, according to Rotchuk. In an effort to stop the violence, he recalled meeting a man—also a doctor—who had falsely admitted to removing the testicles of a Russian prisoner.I’ll sign the confession, so just leave me alone, he said. The police then threatened the other medical professionals by stating, “Ah, you aided him.

According to Rotchuk, he resisted electric shocks from guards. Rotchuk informed me that he was punished by spending two months in solitary confinement. He claimed that the beatings occurred virtually daily, sometimes more than once.

Rotchuk recalled one cop who seemed to enjoy kicking him in the chest, leaving him with a lingering discomfort. He complained, but received no assistance. Rotchuk stated that he had to tell himself, “Dude, stay strong; you can’t control the situation, so you need to accept it.”

But not everyone possessed the same fortitude. Seredniak claimed that an Azov fighter in his late 20s broke a little mirror that hung above the sink in his cell and slashed his throat with a piece of glass. Other prisoners helped the man escape after they used their hands to staunch the bleeding. Days later, according to Seredniak, all of the cells’ mirrors were taken out by the jail officials.

Seredniak claimed that although Russian doctors occasionally visited the captives, they “didn’t necessarily help” them. He criticized the meager food rations they received, saying that, in some cases, “if I ate 300-400 calories a day, I was lucky.”

Seredniak, who is 1.86m (6ft 1in) tall, claimed that while he was there, his weight decreased from his customary 80kg to roughly 60kg (9st 6lb). Every time I stood up, I felt dizzy, he claimed. My eyes grew dimmer, and I was unable to move quickly. He thought that this was done on purpose so that the hostages would be too weak to resist.

The inmates were described as “constantly malnourished” by Iryna Stohnii, a senior military medic with the 56th Brigade and 36 years old. “They didn’t feed us,” she complained. “They wouldn’t even let us leave the building… Only the sky could be seen through the window bars. Stohnii claimed that during the twice-daily inspections, the guards “dragged us by the hair” and made the other ladies move in a stressful position with their heads bowed and arms behind their backs. Women would be told to strip in front of male employees, who occasionally made crude remarks about their body, other female prisoners told me.

Stohnii claimed that one day a guard pulled her arms so hard that “he almost broke them” and accused her of holding pro-Russian fighters captive and torturing them. Throughout our interview, she shed a few tears. At Taganrog, “only devils live and work,” she claimed. Following her release, Stohnii underwent surgery to have bands of scar tissue between her kidney and bladder that had grown as a result of adhesions, which can be brought on by trauma. Apart from rape, they did everything with us, Stohnii told me.

Denys Haiduk, a military medic, claimed that during their “reception,” guards pushed him and the other prisoners to run while taking blows; the prisoners continued to take blows even after they fell to the ground helpless to stand. The 29-year-old Haiduk told me that during his interrogation, he was accused of amputating and castrating Russians who were held captive. Haiduk had assisted the injured at Azovstal. He refuted it, adding that the only combatants that had been brought to him were from Ukraine.

I could hear the rage in his voice as he described what had occurred. Haiduk claimed that after being forced to the ground, he received electric shocks with a stun gun until the battery died. Other prisoners claimed that guards also shocked them with a military phone attached to their bodies. You’re shaking, Haiduk observed. If you raise your head, they begin to beat you. And it goes on forever.

To Haiduk’s astonishment, he was only detained at Taganrog for two days before being freed as part of a prisoner swap. Taganrog is also utilized as a transfer station. The police attempted to coerce him into signing a statement stating that any harm to his body had been an accident while he was walking away. Haiduk objected. He claimed that while being beaten and kicked by guards, he heard a snap.

He remembered how Haiduk battled to breathe and collapsed onto the mattress he was holding. Three broken ribs and a cardiac contusion—a bruised heart muscle brought on by trauma—were later discovered in him after he had returned to Ukraine.

I questioned him as to why he thought the guards were mistreating the Ukrainian captives. “Because they can,” he replied. You are being abused because you are a captive. Seredniak had a more useful response when I asked him the same question: “They beat you to some information. Saying this will ensure that you don’t return and fight after the switch.

The Ukrainian Ombudsman, Lubinets, claimed that Russian authorities had established a “system of torture” for Ukrainian prisoners held in detention facilities in both Russia and Ukrainian territory that is under occupation. Experts are welcome to visit Ukraine’s facilities; in contrast, Russia only allows visitors to certain places. According to Janowski of the OHCHR, Moscow has frequently denied access requests from the UN without providing “any legitimate reasons.” According to Lubinets, “Russian soldiers can do anything with Ukrainian prisoners” as the majority of locations are off-limits to outside observers.

Artem Dyblenko, a 40-year-old sergeant major with the 36th Marine Brigade, overheard the guards discussing playing football with the prisoners during his “reception”. He was curious. Dyblenko remarked, “What I didn’t know was that we would be the ball. He claimed that he was instructed to run while blindfolded and fell. “There were kicks all the time. It was as though you were a football.

According to Dyblenko, one of his cellmates had a heart attack in September and blamed it on the ongoing physical torture. Dyblenko claims that nobody showed up to help him, and the 53-year-old guy passed away. Dyblenko was a part of an exchange three weeks later and informed the Ukrainian authorities of the situation. He stated that the body was returned at the end of the previous year. According to Dyblenko, “[His son] was shown pictures of it, and it was horrifying.” Ukraine recognized the exchange of bodies in December but withheld information about the victims’ identities, causes of death, or places of death. The man’s son said he would refrain from commenting while he awaited the outcome of a DNA test.

At least three deaths at the Taganrog prison are allegedly the result of torture, starvation, and a lack of medical attention, according to the Media Initiative for Human Rights, a Ukrainian organization that made the claims. This is “one of the worst places for Ukrainian detainees in Russia,” according to Mariia Klymyk, one of the group’s inspectors.

She inquired about their parental status after hearing reports of guys being brought to be questioned. If someone denies having children, they are struck in the genitalia while the guard explains that it is “for prevention of procreation,” Klymyk claimed. She added that several Ukrainian soldiers had been placed on trial and were being held accountable for what appeared to be fraudulent confessions they had made while being held.

Seredniak was released in a prisoner swap on May 6 together with 44 other Ukrainian fighters after spending over a year in captivity, seven of them in Taganrog. He promised that the occasion will be honored much like his second birthday. Serhii Rotchuk, the doctor, participated in the same conversation and later learned that he had a fracture in his sternum, or breastbone, a condition linked to serious chest trauma, which he attributed to the torture he had experienced.

In between his sessions for physical and mental rehabilitation, four weeks after his return, I paid Seredniak a visit at his apartment in a residential complex on Kyiv’s left bank. His cracked rib and cysts in the liver and kidney, which the doctors indicated were likely brought on by the beatings, were among his medical diagnoses. Seredniak had already gained back some of the weight he had lost, but he continued to experience lower back pain and occasionally found it difficult to walk.

He first saw the footage of his swap on my phone, which the Ukrainian government had made public. “Slava Ukraini!” or “Glory to Ukraine!” was heard from the detainees as they were recorded being greeted by the mob. Seredniak pointed to a man who was grinning and stated, “This is me!” I was unable to identify him. He explained to me, “I was pale, underweight, and had no access to sunlight. We were nocturnal creatures, like bats.

Inside a Russian prisoner of war camp during the conflict in Ukraine

As we arrived at this prisoner of war facility in the western part of the nation, Russian missiles were once more mocking Ukraine from the sky.

These run-down structures house some of the 50 locations around Ukraine where hundreds of seized Russian soldiers, conscripts, and mercenaries are being imprisoned.

As we were brought into a basement, we could hear the crump of Ukrainian air defenses and see dozens of captives seeking refuge from the Russian bombardment.

Prisoner exchanges have been a common occurrence in this battle, and Kyiv needs them to continue. Since the start of the large-scale invasion, 1,863 men and women have been freed, according to a statement from Ukraine on Thursday. These surgeries are extremely delicate and can take months to plan.

The Geneva Conventions prohibit parades and public exposure of prisoners of war.

We were free to approach whoever we wanted and get their permission. However, the guards were with us at all times, so it was unlikely that these men were discussing openly.

To better disguise their identity, many people covered their faces.

Based on interviews with captives who described instances of torture and mistreatment, a UN human rights report published in November last year detailed atrocities committed by both sides.

Here, the guards were eager to demonstrate that they were giving the detainees good care.

A warrior revealed that he had been employed by a mercenary organization. He had been taken prisoner close to the eastern town of Soledar, which Russian forces had overrun last month, and had been transported to this facility three days ago.

A few of them continued to gaze fiercely. One prisoner who claimed to have been taken prisoner on December 29 in the Luhansk region fixed his focus on us.

He expressed his hope that he would be exchanged and spared from having to rejoin the army.

“What if there is no other option?” I queried.

After a brief pause, he said, “I have some ideas. I may return if I gave up voluntarily.

As we emerged from the refuge, we discovered that half of the captives were injured.

Some people’s hands or feet were bandaged. Others would hobble heavily when they moved.

One young man broke down in tears as he explained how a grenade explosion had caused him to lose his leg.

A little assembly line where prisoners of war were assembling outdoor furniture sets emerged as we drew near the throbbing sound of a compression drill.

Once more, they labored with their heads bowed.

We were informed that a nearby business had a contract with the facility, which allowed the offenders to earn money as well, primarily for buying smokes and treats.

The majority of prisoners of war are required to work in professions like these. Only Russian officers, it seems, had an option.

Inmates here are made to watch TV in Ukrainian, including documentaries on Ukrainian history and the southern city of Mariupol, which was all but flattened by a Russian siege and bombardment that lasted for months.

Some of the Ukrainian soldiers who had defended Mariupol were part of the last exchange.

We asked one inmate whether he understood what he was watching.

“More or less,” he said. “I find it educational.” He was unlikely to have said anything unflattering.

“More or less,” he responded. “I find it to be educational.” It was improbable that he would have said something unfavorable.

It’s probable that some of the Russians in the room were unable or unwilling to understand the program they were required to watch.

According to the guards, detainees are permitted one phone call every two weeks. These phone conversations are frequently the first opportunity their Russian families have to learn that their sons have been taken prisoner.

Whereabouts are you? I’ve questioned everyone in the city about you. Over the phone, the mother of one young man could be heard.

“Wait, mom. I can’t say more since I’m being held captive.

She asked, “With the bloody Ukrainians?” before sobbing uncontrollably.

“Mum, that’s it. As the guard watched him, he warned her, “Quiet. “I’m alive and healthy, and that’s what matters most.”

The convicts hoped for a future prisoner swap and another chance to speak with someone after some of their calls went unanswered.

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