Torture, drugs, Russian anthem: released Ukrainian soldiers reveal abuse by occupiers
28 May, 2022

The Ukrainian military released from Russian captivity spoke of the abuse they had endured on the part of the occupiers. Among other things, torture and the injection of unknown drugs was practiced, according to the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denisova.

The released servicemen told Denisova about the abuse during her visit to the health care facility where the Ukrainian fighters are at the moment. Most of them were taken prisoner near Mariupol.

The service members say they were initially held in basements and outbuildings. Then they were transferred to a guardhouse, the pre-trial detention center in Donetsk and the №120 correctional colony, which are located in the temporarily occupied territory. They were then transferred to the Taganrog and Voronezh remand prisons.

The fighters say they duct taped their eyes during the transfer, put a bag on their heads and tied their hands with ropes. In captivity, they were threatened with murder, beatings and humiliation. They add that the occupiers brutally tortured Azov officers and fighters.

According to the military, during interrogations they were brought to their knees, butt-stroked with rifles on the toes and open wounds, used pliers, threw bandages around their necks and strangled. They also say they were electrocuted, beaten with batons and kicked.

The servicemen reported that the occupiers injected them with unknown drugs referred to as "M", after which they fainted and lost their memory. They also say that the occupiers forced Ukrainian soldiers to learn the poem "Forgive us, our dear Russians", the anthem of Russia, the history of the creation of the emblem and flag of Russia. If they did not comply, the Russians tortured them.

Women prisoners of war were held in the Donetsk pre-trial detention center. They said that there were at least 17-20 of them in the cells for two-three people. A bucket was provided instead of a toilet. There were also no hygiene items and no opportunity to wash.

The servicewomen say they were forced into sexual intercourse. According to them, the occupiers exerted psychological pressure on them by brutally beating fellow Ukrainian captured men in front of their eyes.

The captured women claim that the invaders did not provide vital medical care to the wounded Ukrainian servicemen. The doctor examined them only before they were transferred to the POW camp, where representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross provided assistance.

And former prisoners say that Ukrainians were given only 1.5 liters of water for 30-40 people, and also limited food. The occupiers refused them the right to contact relatives.

Denisova emphasizes that by these crimes the Russian Federation violated the rights of prisoners of war, guaranteed by the provisions of the articles of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The ombudswoman appealed to the UN Commission of Inquiry to Probe All Human Rights Violations during Russia's Invasion of of Ukraine to take into account these facts of Russian violations of the rights of Ukrainian citizens.

Exchange of prisoners

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Ukraine and Russia have held a number of prisoners swaps, exchanging hundreds of people. An operation is underway to exchange defenders of Mariupol, who, after several months of confrontation with the Russians in the besieged city, left the territory of the Azovstal plant, where the occupiers broke through on May 4.

Thanks to Azovstal fighters, Ukraine has gained critical time to build up reserves, regroup forces and receive assistance from partners. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that the higher military command had ordered the commanders of the units at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel.

On May 16, 53 seriously wounded Ukrainian soldiers were evacuated from the plant to the temporarily occupied Novoazovsk, and another 211 soldiers were evacuated through a humanitarian corridor to the temporarily occupied Olenivka. On May 17, Reuters reported, citing a witness, that at least seven other buses carrying Ukrainian servicemen had left Azovstal steelworks.

The Ministry of Defense stated that the rescued Ukrainian soldiers would be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. At the same time, they stress that the rescue operation is underway, so its details are not disclosed. According to British intelligence, about 1,700 Ukrainian servicemen left Azovstal, but the Ukrainian authorities have not commented on these figures.