After returning to Ukraine following PoW exchanges, Ukrainian soldiers say that Russians routinely torture, threaten, and humiliate their captives, Ukraine’s parliamentary ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said in a Facebook post on May 28.
Denisova heard their stories at a healthcare facility where some Ukrainian soldiers are being cared for following their capture near Mariupol.
According to them, they were initially kept in cellars and industrial buildings and later transferred to detention centers in Moscow-controlled areas of Donetsk Oblast. Eventually, they ended up in detention in Russia’s Taganrog and Voronezh.
During these transfers, PoWs had their eyes sealed with duct tape, their heads covered by bags, and their hands tied. Guards would repeatedly beat, humiliate, and threaten to kill them.
The Russians would treat Ukrainian officers and members of the Azov Regiment with particular cruelty.
The prisoners were tortured with pliers, beaten with rifle butts and nightsticks, choked, electrocuted, and kicked.
Some soldiers said that they were injected with an unknown “M” substance, which caused them to pass out and suffer memory loss. Their captors forced them to recite the history of Russia’s coat of arms and flag, a poem called “Forgive us, dear Russians,” and sing the Russian national anthem. Refusals would lead to further torture.
Female soldiers were kept in a detention center in Donetsk. Between 17 and 20 women were crammed in cells intended to house 2-3 people. A bucket served as a toilet. The captives had no access to items of personal hygiene or showers.
The Russians coerced them into sexual acts, applying psychological pressure by savagely beating captive Ukrainian men in front of them.
The women didn’t have access to critical medical care. A doctor examined them once, before they were transferred to a PoW camp, where there were medical personnel from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Ukrainian PoWs were given 1.5 liters of water for 30-40 people, per day. While they were kept in Russia-occupied Donbas, their daily rations consisted of a slice of bread with lard. When they were given meat, Russian would tell it was human.
The PoWs were also restricted from contacting their families.
Denisova said these accounts indicate that Russia is breaking international law and violating human rights conventions, including the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of PoWs.
She urged the UN to investigate and document these Russian crimes, which she said clearly violated the rights of Ukrainian citizens.