A two-story police station became the Kherson torture center for eight months. “We called it the hole”, explains Ruslan, a 52-year-old man who runs a beer shop opposite the police building. At the beginning of the invasion, he details, the Ural SUVs of Russian manufacture stopped daily in front of his door. From them came out, between pushes, the detainees, hands tied and a bag on the head.
[La OTAN dice que Rusia es la responsable última del incidente en Polonia por iniciar la guerra]
Ruslan’s is one of the many testimonies collected by the news agency Reuters after the liberation of the city by the Ukrainian army last week. All of them, without exception, witness the violence with which the Russian troops treated the locals during the nearly 250 days of occupation. They also corroborate the story of the Ukrainian intelligence services who say they have discovered a torture chamber where Kremlin soldiers have reportedly interrogated and extorted civilians.
Along the same lines, the human rights office of United Nations assured on Tuesday that he had found evidence that the abuse of the russians against the prisoners was “quite systematic” since the start of the war, while the Ukrainian forces would have done so in certain circumstances and places, but sporadically.
“It was pure sadism”
Two residents of an apartment block overlooking the courtyard of the police headquarters maintain that the soldiers removed bodies wrapped in white sheets and stored them in the garage for later throw them in the garbage truck. “I personally saw five bodies being taken out,” Oleh, 20, told Reuters. “We could see hands hanging from the sheets and we understood that they were corpses,” she details.
The scenes narrated by her neighbor, Svytlana Bestanik, 41, are similar. She too remember the stench of decomposing bodies in the air and the shouts of the men and women entering the building. “We were witnessing sadism in its purest form,” she says.
Vitalii Serdiuk, a 65-year-old retired mechanic who lives with his wife in an apartment near the detention center, claims to have been inside that prison. The day he was taken away by the Russian military, he explains, they handcuffed him, put a bag over his head and they made him get into a vehicle. Once at the police station, they put him together with other people in a cell so narrow that he could barely move.
The next day they forced him to go down to the basement. There, according to Serdiuk, they beat him on his legs, back and torso with a baton and they “electrocuted him by putting electrodes in the scrotum” while being asked about the whereabouts of her son, a soldier in the Ukrainian army.
“I didn’t tell them anything. ‘I don’t know’ was my only answer,” he says. And he adds: “I resisted.” without any explanation, Serdiuk was released two days later. His wife found him outside a store almost unable to walk.
[Imágenes dantescas en Járkov tras el bombardeo: una ciudad cuando solo queda la luz de los móviles]
Like this, the rest of the testimonies collected by the agency Reuters suggest that the detainees were often people who openly expressed their opposition to the Russian occupation, who were suspected of having information about the Ukrainian army or who were considered combatants. The latter, the interviewees maintain, were never seen leave the building.
This is the case of Vitaliy, a resistance soldier in Kherson. As his wife explains, Aliona Lapchuk, when the Russians took the city in March, a group of soldiers stood in front of her house, their mobile phones were seized and Vitaliy was dragged to the basement, where he was severely beaten.
“He didn’t come out of the basement; they dragged him. They broke his cheek bone,” Aliona told Reuters. That was the last time she saw her husband, since she and her sons managed to escape from Kherson. She didn’t know anything about him either until June, when she was told that her husband’s body had been found floating in a river.
Follow the topics that interest you