Russian forces committed war crimes on Kherson prisoners

  • The Mobile Justice Team, a group of international lawyers and investigators supporting the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, is investigating war crimes in Kherson.
  • According to new evidence collected by the investigation, at least 36 victims described the use of electric shock during interrogations of Kherson prisoners.
  • The Mobile Justice Team is a component of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, which is funded by the Foreign Office, the EU and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

A photo of a hallway in a building where Russian forces set up a torture center in Kherson.

Photo: Harvey Presence

Editor’s note: The following article contains graphic material detailing reports of human torture in Ukraine.

WASHINGTON — The identification of Russian forces who carried out various forms of torture and sexual violence on prisoners in the Ukrainian city of Kherson is “well under way,” according to a team of international lawyers investigating alleged war crimes.

Kherson, once home to more than 280,000 people, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces during Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. After months of Russian occupation, the southeastern city was liberated in November by Ukrainian forces, who reopened Kherson to international humanitarian and investigative teams.

“It is important that we help the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine not only to bring the perpetrators of these serious sexual crimes to justice, but also to build successful cases against those who gave the orders,” said Wayne Jordash, an international human rights lawyer. and managing partner at the law firm Global Rights Compliance, CNBC told.

“The pattern we are observing is consistent with a cynical and calculated plan to humiliate and terrorize millions of Ukrainian citizens to submit to the Kremlin’s dictates,” added Jordash, who heads the Mobile Justice Team, a group of international lawyers and investigators. that supports the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine.

Read more: Russian forces have moved at least 6,000 Ukrainian children to camps since the start of the war, new report says

The Mobile Justice Team is a component of Atrocity Crimes Advisory Groupwhich is funded by the Foreign Office, the EU and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

According to the new evidence gathered by the investigation, at least 36 victims described the use of electric shocks during interrogations, and of those cases, nearly half involved electric shocks of the genitals. Others described detailed incidents in which genital mutilation was threatened, and at least one person said they were forced to witness the rape of another trapped by a foreign object.

KHERSON, UKRAINE – JANUARY 04: War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office officers and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupation force on the local civilian population in basements and rooms of Ukrainian prison buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine. According to the Kherson police, local residents were kept in cells and rooms for days, tortured with electricity, batons and forced to write Russian patriotic texts. Kherson was the only regional capital captured by Russia since the invasion and was liberated by Ukraine late last year. (Photo: Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

Other techniques commonly used against prisoners in the more than 35 torture chambers in Kherson were strangulation, waterboarding, severe beatings and threats of rape, according to the evidence collected.

In March, the Mobile Justice Team reported that at least 20 torture sites in Kherson were directly funded by the Kremlin and managed by various Russian security agencies, including Russia’s Federal Security Services, known as the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

The Kremlin has previously denied that its forces committed war crimes or deliberately targeted civilians. The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Military, ex-military, law enforcement, volunteers, activists, community leaders, doctors and teachers were among those held captive in the Russian-run Kherson torture centers.

“What we are witnessing in Kherson is only the tip of the iceberg in Putin’s barbaric plan to wipe out an entire population,” said Anna Mykytenko, a senior legal advisor for Global Rights Compliance.

“The true extent of Russia’s war crimes is still unknown, but what we can say with certainty is that the psychological consequences of these heinous crimes on the Ukrainian people will be ingrained in their minds for years to come,” Mykytenko added.

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