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Horrifying accounts of Russian torture chambers evoke memories of Putin’s war crimes against Ukraine in 2014


Liubov Abravitova is the Ambassador of Ukraine to South Africa.

As accounts by witnesses and survivors of torture at the hands of the Russian invaders begin to emerge, there are echoes of the horrors visited upon the people of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014.

I often think about Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk and wonder how many Ukrainian lives were forever lost there without a trace or even a chance at justice. It’s now been almost nine years since armed Russian terrorists occupied those Ukrainian territories and we’ve never had a chance to see what took place there in 2014. 

Now, whenever our armed forces liberate new territories we can clearly see and document all of the war crimes committed by Putin’s army against our people. We weren’t ever supposed to see the torture chambers, where Russians brutally murdered our civilians. We were never supposed to see mass graves, not to mention exhumate the remains of tortured Ukrainians with hands tied behind their backs and shot in the back of their heads. We were never supposed to question the witnesses, because that would never be an option if it all went according to Putin’s plan and Russia would occupy our country just like they did in Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea in 2014.  

Every single liberated town or city feels like the most horrifying event you’ve ever witnessed played over and over again on repeat: Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Izum, Balakleya, Kherson and many more riddled with war crimes. Tourture chamber after torture chamber, mass grave after mass grave… and that is exactly why I think about how many of these chambers are now forever erased in temporarily occupied Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. How many mass graves are now forever hidden or destroyed, how many war crimes would go unpunished because of so much time lost?

We have now begun unfolding Russian war crimes in liberated Kherson and they are as atrocious and horrifying as the others. Ukrainian police services, special services officers as well as Ukrainian and international journalists have already gathered quotes and testimonials from those who survived the torture chambers and all the witness who were either living or working close by.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Ukraine’s in for a long, cruel winter as Russia continues with destruction of vital infrastructure

Huge numbers of Ukrainians were detained and tortured by Russian terrorists in Kherson. We now know that the chief prosecutor of Kherson Oblast, Volodymyr Kalyuga, has confirmed the four main sites in the city where Ukrainians were detained and tortured, mostly abandoned government buildings that the Russians had taken over.

Paranoid invaders 

According to the multiple witnesses and survivors, the most commonly used torture method was shocking people with electricity. Russians also loved beating detainees and suffocating them.

Russian forces were well aware that no one is happy to see them in their city so they were extremely paranoid and were bringing people for interrogation by the hundreds, suspecting them of working for the Ukrainian army forces. This sort of paranoia points to them knowing no one would ever vote in their fake referendums, so they tortured, killed and threatened people into submission. 

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People were detained and tortured for months, and those who survived said that listening to constant screaming of men and women being tortured was hellish. When police and Security Service officers were first inspecting the building, in one of the torture rooms they found scribblings on the walls of people pleading with God to save them. Asking God for help.

Here are some of the witness stories published by journalists from The Guardian who were in Kherson and talked to the locals. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Remember the Holodomor — Russia repeats its murderous history in Ukraine

“Three neighbours and two local shopkeepers said they started hearing screams about six weeks after they saw Russian soldiers take over the building. The witnesses said they started seeing people being taken in with bags on their heads, and some bodies being removed.”

“Russian soldiers came to pension-age Vitaliy Serdiuk’s house in late August. They turned the place upside down and shot in the air when neighbours protested, then took Serdiuk to the detention centre. Serdiuk was beaten so badly within the four days he was held that his wife, Elena, said he has been afraid to leave the house for the last two months. He was told the beatings were for his son, a serving soldier in the Ukrainian army.”

Read in Daily Maverick: “The twisted Russian logic of terrorism amounts to unprovoked attacks with no military significance

“Zhenia Dremo, an IT specialist, was struck on the forehead at a checkpoint for not having cigarettes to give to the soldiers, leaving a still visible scar. The Russians then took him to the detention centre. ‘They only beat me a little – I was lucky,’ said Dremo, ‘but my cellmates were heavily beaten.’ He said Russian soldiers ‘attached one electro-rod to his [cellmate’s] balls and the other to his penis. Then for two hours I would sit there and listen to him scream,’ he said. ‘I sleep badly at night to this day.’”

There’s also a video (below) of about 30 minutes made by the Ukraine Bihus.Info journalists team in Kherson that I really urge you to watch. It is translated into English. You can listen to witnesses and see the chambers for yourself. DM



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  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Truly horrific and devastating! It is absolutely abominable, painful and inhumane what the Ukrainian population is going through. And why? Because they dare to be free and look to their nation’s best interest, which will inevitably happen. And all because of one deranged, evil and bestial KGB thug and mass-murderer with delusions of grandeur and a highly false and brittle ego. A real nothing-nik of a poor excuse of man – a coward, bully and a vile scumbag who deserves to burn in hell forever along with his Kremlin henchmen. God bless and save Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏💪

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