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Thousands of Ukrainian civilians are detained in a network of formal and informal prisons across Russia and the territories it occupies, where they endure psychological abuse, torture, and even slave labor, according to a recent investigation by the Associated Press.
The news agency interviewed individuals associated with the prison network, including 20 former detainees, ex-prisoners of war, families of civilians in detention, and Ukrainian intelligence officers.
These conversations, the AP reported, as well as government documents, satellite imagery, social media, government documents, and copies of letters provided by the Red Cross confirmed a complex Russian system of detention and abuse of civilians in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.
According to Vladimir Osechkin, an exiled Russian human rights activist, more than 4,000 Ukrainian civilians are reportedly being held in Russia, many without charges. Ukraine's government, however, believes around 10,000 civilians could be detained.
Abuse is rampant and routine across the prison network. Examples of torture endured by former detainees included "repeated electrical shocks, beatings that crack skulls and fracture ribs, and simulated suffocation."
Some Russian-held civilians are used for slave labor in digging trenches for Russian soldiers and mass graves.
Furthermore, a government document obtained by AP suggests that Russia is planning to build 25 new prison colonies and six new detention centers in occupied Ukraine by 2026.
Russia has used the forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians as a weapon of war throughout the duration of the conflict.