The human rights organization Human Rights Watch has received new evidence of the torture of residents of Ukrainian Kherson by the Russian military during the occupation.
The victims and their family members spoke about the abuse and humiliation that people were subjected to in torture centers on Teploenergetikov and Perekopskaya streets. Torture rooms located in the administrative building of the city, the village school and the aviation hangar are also mentioned.
Investigators at Human Rights Watch interviewed 34 people, 12 former prisoners and 10 members of their families, described the forceful measures that were used against the detainees. It is reported that in three cases this led to the death of torture prisoners.
In Kherson, Russian troops used the same detention tactics as in other occupied territories of Ukraine. The military went from house to house and apartment, and then selectively detained one or more people living in them. Several victims reported that they (or their relatives, including the elderly) were threatened and beaten. They were then blindfolded and then stuffed into a vehicle to be taken to one of more than 20 detention centers.
The Russian military detained Ukrainians on suspicion of volunteering or for expressing support for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Also, the reason for the detention was participation in the “counter-terrorist operation” in the Donbass in 2014.
One of the prisoners of the torture chamber on Teploenergetikov Street spoke about other people who ended up in this institution:
“There were five of them. […] All of them were beaten. One was shot in the leg, the other had a broken rib. We heard the screams [of people being beaten] all day and all night. People screamed at 3 o'clock in the morning and in the evenings. […] They did not provide medical assistance to anyone.”
The guards humiliated Ukrainians by forcing them to shout pro-Russian slogans, listen to and sing the Russian anthem and "patriotic" songs, and applaud those who sang. Those who did not obey were threatened with beatings. Relatives of the detainees said they were not given any information about where they were, which goes against the Geneva Conventions.
Yulia Gorbunova, senior Ukraine researcher at HRW, notes that five months after the Russian troops withdrew from Kherson, “we are only just beginning to understand the scale of the atrocities [the Russian military] committed.”
The Russian army left Kherson in November 2022. At that time, the commander of the Joint Group of Forces of the Russian Federation, Sergei Surovikin, explained this by the “impossibility of supplying” settlements located on the right bank of the Dnieper.