Ukrainian ombudsman speaks out about Russia’s abuse of POWs

28 September 2022, 07:54 PM
On September 21, Dmytro Lubinets met defenders released from captivity in Chernihiv oblast (Photo:Дмитро Лубінець / Facebook)

On September 21, Dmytro Lubinets met defenders released from captivity in Chernihiv oblast (Photo:Дмитро Лубінець / Facebook)

Ukrainian prisoners of war were tortured and abused in captivity, said Ukraine’s Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, at a briefing on Sept. 28.

According to the official, all those released emphasize the terrible conditions of detention in places not adapted to handle so many prisoners.

However, the invaders did not manage to break anyone, despite their attempts, Lubinets said.

“The widespread practice of ‘meetings’ (in places of detention): POWs had to pass through a line of people, where they were beaten with rubber batons that broke,” he said.

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“After that, wooden sticks were used. They (POWs) were forced to keep their heads down all the time, they called it ‘rods down.’ Anyone who ‘violated’ this was subject to additional beatings.”

Lubinets emphasized there was almost no food and water in the places where Ukrainian POWs had been kept, and they were not given personal hygiene products, such as toilet paper, soap and toothbrushes. Prisoners were often forced to sleep on concrete floor without mattresses or blankets.

“Everyone drastically lost weight,” the ombudsman said.

“I was talking to a guy who lost 63 kg. A guy from Azov told me during the withdrawal (from the Azovstal Steelworks) that he had lost more than 70 kg. The least (weight loss) I’ve heard was 25 kilograms. Even though the guy was of small height, he said he always considered himself thin. Russia practically did not give anyone food and used hunger as one of the elements of systematic torture.”

The ombudsman also stressed that no Ukrainian prisoner of war had ever seen representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who were present during the withdrawal from the Azovstal Steelworks.

According to Lubinets, the ICRC admits, though not publicly, that Russia does not allow their representatives to check the conditions in which prisoners are kept, so the invaders allow themselves to torture and keep captives in inhuman conditions.

He also clarified there is no need to raise additional money for the rehabilitation of the released defenders, as it will be paid for by the state. The Ukrainian authorities have also receive many offers of assistance for the defenders, he added.

“The state has provided absolutely everything,” the official said.

“There is no additional need for any volunteer help.”

Ukraine returned 215 people, including 108 defenders of the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol, from Russian captivity on Sept. 21, as part of a large prisoner swap with Russia.

The 215 people released from Russian captivity included military personnel from the State Border Guard Service, the National Police, Ground and Naval Forces, National Guard of Ukraine, territorial defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, State Customs Service, etc.

The prisoner swap took place in Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast. At the same time, five Azov commanders were sent to Turkey under personal guarantees of protection provided by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to the agreements, all of them will stay in Turkey until the end of the war in Ukraine.

The list of those released from Russian captivity also included 10 foreigners, with some being “sentenced” to death by a sham “court” in Russian-occupied Donbas. All of them arrived in Saudi Arabia, which acted as a mediator.

Five commanders who were present at the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol were exchanged for 55 Russian prisoners of war. Ukraine also exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of the Opposition Platform – For Life Party (banned in June 2022), who has been charged with treason, for 200 of its soldiers.

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