HRW denounces Russian troops for torturing, detaining and abducting civilians in southern Ukraine

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The NGO Human Right Wacth (HRW) has denounced this Friday the tortures, illegal detentions and forced disappearances to which Russian troops would be subjecting civilians in the occupied areas of the Kherson and Zaporiyia regions.

“Russian forces have turned the occupied areas of southern Ukraine into an abyss of fear and savage lawlessness (…) Torture, inhumane treatment, as well as arbitrary detention and illegal confinement of civilians, are among the apparent war crimes we have documented,” HRW’s Ukraine researcher Yulia Gorbunova said in a statement.

The organization spoke to 71 residents of Kherson, Melitopol, Berdiansk, Skadovsk and ten other towns and villages in Kherson and Zaporiyia regions, who described as many as 42 cases in which Russian troops allegedly forcibly disappeared civilians, arbitrarily detained or even tortured them.

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HRW has also documented that three members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces had been prisoners of war and that two of them were reportedly killed.

“The purpose of the abuse appears to be to obtain information and instill fear so that people will accept the occupation, as Russia seeks to assert sovereignty over the occupied territory in violation of international law,” the NGO has noted in the brief.

Those interviewed have claimed to have been tortured or witnessed torture through prolonged beatings and, in some cases, electric shocks. They have also described injuries including broken ribs, as well as other bones and teeth, severe burns, concussions, broken blood vessels in the eye, cuts and bruises.

In particular, one of the residents — who had organized a protest — has claimed that Russian forces allegedly beat him with a baseball bat while he was in detention. Another protester was detained for up to seven days and, when he was released, “could barely walk”.

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Residents have also maintained that they were blindfolded and handcuffed throughout their detention, and that they were held with very little food and water and no medical assistance. In several cases, Russian forces have released detainees only after they signed a statement promising to “cooperate” with authorities or recorded a video urging others to cooperate.

“In all but one case of detention, Russian forces did not tell families where their loved ones were being held, and the Russian military commander’s office did not provide information to the families seeking it,” the organization has added.

“Ukrainians in the occupied areas are living a hellish ordeal,” Gorbunova has said. “Russian authorities must immediately investigate war crimes and other abuses committed by their forces in these areas, as must international investigative bodies with a view to initiating prosecutions,” she has added.

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