The Kremlin funded at least 20 torture centers for Ukrainians in Kherson, which Russian forces occupied for many months before it was freed during a Ukrainian counteroffensive late last year, according to a new report.
The report from a Mobile Justice Team, which was formed as part of multilateral initiative of the State Department, European Union and United Kingdom to provide advice to Ukraine’s investigators, revealed Thursday that Ukrainian war crime inspectors found a direct link between torture chambers in Kherson and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.
The team is comprised of international and Ukrainian attorneys who travel throughout Ukraine to help prosecutors collect and analyze potential evidence of Russian war crimes and atrocities.
A release announcing the findings states that the evidence that investigators reviewed includes plans for Russian forces to create, manage and fund at least 20 centers in Kherson to “subjugate, re-educate” or kill Ukrainian community leaders and dissenters. The chambers were run by Russian security agencies including the Russian Federal Security Service and Russian Prison Service.
The team collected information from more than 1,000 survivors of the centers who experienced physical beatings, electric shock torture and waterboarding; more than 400 prisoners have not been accounted for and could have been killed or taken to Russian territory.
Those imprisoned were also forced to learn and recite pro-Russian slogans, poems and songs.
Imprisoned individuals included military members, civil servants, journalists, teachers and community volunteers, the release states.
Wayne Jordash, the managing partner of the nonprofit international legal practice Global Rights Compliance, said in the release that Russia’s conduct in these centers demonstrates Putin’s plan to try to destroy Ukrainian identity.
“The mass torture chambers, financed by the Russian State are not random but rather part of a carefully thought out and financed blueprint with a clear objective to eliminate Ukrainian national and cultural identity,” Jordash said. “The torture centres are the tip of the iceberg in Russia’s inherently criminal plan to subjugate or destroy Ukrainians.”
He said many additional torture centers exist in other occupied parts of Ukraine that Putin is funding.
Russian forces have been documented to have committed war crimes on many occasions, with soldiers killing and raping civilians and destroying their communities.