August 31, 2023, 18:06

Torture murder, injection of unknown substances and sexualized violence: human rights defenders present evidence of abuse of Ukrainians in Kherson region’s village

During the russian occupation of the village of Bilyaivka, Kherson region, the russians illegally detained Ukrainians in the local school. On the second floor, the occupiers set up a torture chamber where they held at least 20 men between April 5 and the end of September 2022.

Based on in-depth interviews with 12 victims and five witnesses and relatives, representatives of ZMINA human rights center analyzed the events and presented the evidence of the brutal abuse of Ukrainians illegally detained by the russian military. In particular, there is evidence of murder torture, electric shock torture, physical violence, and psychological pressure.

During a briefing at Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform, Yelyzaveta Sokurenko, coordinator of the war crimes documentation department at ZMINA, said that according to the testimonies of the detainees, they received barely any food, and the situation with drinking water was critical, as it was given once every one or two days.

The hygiene conditions in the place of illegal detention were also inadequate. Since the premises were not adapted for keeping people there, there was no toilet or hand basin. Men had to relieve themselves into bottles and then immediately pour their excreta out into the sewage drain in the room.

Detainees never had the opportunity to take a shower. They were also not allowed outside.

Yelyzaveta Sokurenko noted that all detainees were subjected to psychological violence in Bilyaivka. During interrogations, the russian military used personal connections between detainees in order to inflict additional psychological pressure and even more suffering. Two cases of simulated execution were also recorded.

“In one case, two friends were interrogated, and a russian soldier “offered” them to choose each other’s knee, which he would shoot at. At the same time, he was playing with the lock of the weapon. In another case, during the interrogation of two brothers, a russian soldier forced them to undress and said he would cut their muscles and feed them to each other,” she added.

The journalist reported that 12 people were subjected to physical violence in the illegal place of detention at a school in Bilyaivka. The most common means of torture were the so-called “professional beatings.” And in at least two cases, the russian military used health conditions of detainees to inflict additional suffering.

She notes that torture by electric current was used in Bilyaivka just like in other places of illegal detention. Two such cases have been recorded, and both had instances of sexualized torture – electric shock was applied to the genitals. At least two victims reported being threatened with castration.

Yelyzaveta Sokurenko noted that in the illegal place of detention in Bilyaivka, prisoners were also injected with unknown substances, in particular, there is information of two such cases.

The victims also said that they witnessed the death of two men during detention. One man was a farmer named Oleh Kovalyk from the village of Myrolyubivka and Dmytro Zhuravliov, who lived in Bilyaivka.

After the death of the tortured men, their bodies were taken away by the russian military in an unknown direction. Both men have legal status of missing persons

“It would have been reasonable for the russian military to understand that beatings and torture, combined with the failure to provide medical aid, could lead to the death of people. Therefore, we can qualify these two deaths as intentional murder,” Yelyzaveta Sokurenko explained.

As the journalist noted, the length of stay at the school in the village of Bilyaivka ranged from one to five months. In fact, prisoners were released without warning. The men were taken out in groups in several stages over the course of several months.

Before their release, they were forced to appear in propaganda videos – they were taken one by one into a room and, under threats, were forced to read the text from a piece of paper on camera. In addition to the text about the cooperation with the russian military, the detainees had to say on camera that they were treated well in the place of detention, that they were given food, provided medical care, and the russian military forced two of the detainees to say that they were fire adjusters.

“We can conclude that in this way the russian military tried to avoid responsibility, in particular for torturing people, for ill-treatment and for the death of detainees. This also shows that the russian military committed these crimes with awareness of their own responsibility for them,” Yelyzaveta Sokurenko explained.

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