TO Eleven locations were found in Kherson where Russians carried out torture, as well as at least 63 corpses with signs of torture. In the meantime, 430 investigations have been opened for possible war crimes: this is the provisional balance of the Ukrainian authorities in the Kherson region. The Ukrainian army managed to recapture the area about a week ago, writes Rebecca Bart for “Mother well“.
Beatings, humiliations, mock executions
The Russian army occupied the city for nine months. “And they systematically tortured people,” Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets told Ukrainian television: “Dozens of people were subjected to torture. They were abused with electric shocks, beaten with metal pipes, their bones were broken. And all this – in front of the cameras. The Russians filmed everything.”
The scale of these atrocities is probably even greater than in other places in occupied Ukraine: “I have never seen such a scale, although I have visited all torture centers in different regions of Ukraine. The scale is terrifying,” says Lubinets .
On a small farm in the village of Centralne, 30 km. north of Kherson, 62-year-old Vasiliy Berezhanski lives with his wife. And he was captured by Russian soldiers and taken to a suburb of Kherson. For three days they kept him in the basement of an old country courtyard, where they tortured him with electric shocks. “They tried to scare us. They came in the middle of the night and we had to sing a song. Only after that they let us sleep. But after 15 minutes someone else came and said: why are you sleeping? And this repeated for whole nights. They wanted to humiliate us and destroy us mentally.”
Beatings, humiliations, mock executions: torture methods have already been suffered by victims in other Ukrainian regions as well. And the cases in Kherson are not isolated.
Blindfolded and hands tied
In another village a few kilometers to the south, Alyosha Babenko, 27, recounts how Russian soldiers arrested him and his 14-year-old nephew. “Sometimes they tortured us with electric shocks, sometimes they threatened us with weapons. They also said they would force us to walk through a minefield to the Ukrainian positions,” he shared. In the end, they took him to Kherson, but he doesn’t know exactly where: his eyes and his hands were bandaged.
He must have been in a police station cell. Many were tortured there. There was also a man named Maxim, who said: “Do you know what was the worst? All day I listened to others being tortured.
The screams were inhuman. For me, that was the most terrible thing.”
The screams were so loud they could be heard by people nearby. Mykola, who lives on the seventh floor of a nearby building, recalls: “For whole nights you could hear the cries of the tortured people. At one point they took out two corpses wrapped in plastic, which had been thrown in the trash. A truck came and took away the rubbish.”
At least two cases have been documented
These claims cannot be independently verified. But as of July, Human Rights Watch has documented at least two cases in which men from Kherson were tortured to death by Russian soldiers.
“Moreover, there have been documented cases of men arrested and kidnapped directly from the subway or from the supermarket,” human rights activist Yana Gorbunova told ARD: “We are talking about complete lawlessness, about an atmosphere of fear that Russian units have tried to impose in the occupied regions. It is a tactic aimed at keeping fear and servitude in the people”.
Some have been looking for their relatives for months
Torture is rife in Russian-occupied areas, Human Rights Watch believes. And now the investigations are starting in the areas that have returned to Ukrainian control.
However, it is difficult to clarify individual cases. Many people in Kherson have been looking for their missing relatives for months now. They were probably taken to the south, to the Crimea or even to Russia. People hope their relatives are still alive.
Top photo: A view of a Russian tank and destroyed buildings in a recently liberated village on the outskirts of Kherson, November 16, 2022.