Russia created network of torture facilities in occupied territories of Ukraine, investigation shows
A prayer on the wall of one of the torture chambers (Photo:ANADOLU AGENCY)
Russia has created a network of at least 20 torture facilities in the occupied territories of Ukraine that Ukrainian and international lawyers say is part of a calculated Russian strategy to extinguish the Ukrainian identity, CNN reported on March 2.
Wayne Jordash, head of the Mobile Justice Team, a collective of international investigators supporting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General, told CNN that his group had recently been working in the city of Kherson.
Kherson was the only regional center Russian troops had managed to capture and occupy for several months before being forced to withdraw in early November after a months-long offensive by Ukrainian forces.
“These detention centers are linked, they follow a very similar, if not identical way of behaving,” Jordash said.
Russian forces followed a very specific blueprint in several occupied areas, with clear patterns that point to an overarching plan of Moscow’s occupation of Ukraine.
“The first stage, essentially, is to detain and, in many instances, kill a category of people labelled as ‘leaders,’ i.e. those who could physically resist the occupation, but also those who could culturally resist it,” Jordash said.
“The second stage is a sort of filtration process where the population that remains outside of the detention centers is subject to constant monitoring and filtration so that anyone who’s suspected of being involved with ‘leaders’ or been involved with organizing any type of resistance is also then identified and either deported to Russia or detained in the detention centers and tortured.”
These methods were employed not only in Kherson but also in other areas occupied by Russian forces, such as the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Borodyanka. The lengthy occupation of Kherson allowed Russian forces to go even further, Jordash added.
“The third stage (is) the extinguishing of permanent identity,” he said.
“This can include removing the Ukrainian curriculum from schools, and confiscating objects considered to be pro-Ukrainian such as flags or t-shirts in the country’s colors. Essentially the population (is) locked down so that all traces of Ukrainian identity can be removed.”
Ukrainian and International investigators also said they discovered financial links connecting these detention centers to the Russian state.
“Those detention centers have financial links to the Russian state,” Jordash said, citing documents uncovered by the investigators.
“These financial documents, they show that the civilian administration is being financed from Russia and the civilian administration is financing the detention centers, so you have very clear patterns and very clear links.”
CNN journalists noted they have not been able to independently review the documents cited by the investigation.
They also reached out to the Russian government for comment on the accusations, but have not heard back.
Jordash explained that these are the investigation’s preliminary findings, noting that more evidence of Russian war crimes is still being uncovered and processed.
The newly-released findings are a helpful indicator of what is happening in the territories currently occupied by Russia, or of what would happen should Moscow succeed in taking over Ukraine.
“For me, what is interesting about Kherson is you really see the microcosm of the overall criminal plan, what would have happened to (the rest of) Ukraine,” he asked.
“What’s horrifying, as much as the torture, is the thought of what would have happened, had Russia managed to be successful in its occupation of vast areas of Ukraine.”
For Jordash, a larger Russian occupation would have led to an “unprecedented” number of detentions, as well as cases of torture and killings.
After the liberation of the occupied territories, the Ukrainian authorities discovered numerous mass graves and evidence that the local population was tortured.
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