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Nearly half of Ukrainians held in Russian detention facilities in the liberated parts of Kherson Oblast were tortured when the territory was under Russian occupation, with many also being subject to sexual violence, according to a report compiled by Western lawyers and published on Aug. 2.
Ukrainian troops liberated the city of Kherson and the part of the region on the right bank of the Dnipro River in November 2022. The part of Kherson Oblast on the left bank remains under Russian occupation.
The report was prepared by the Mobile Justice Team, which had been set up by human rights firm Global Rights Compliance to support Ukraine’s Prosecutor General's Office.
The lawyers identified an initial pool of 320 cases of detention in Kherson Oblast, spread across more than 35 identified detention centers.
Russian guards subjected at least 43% of the victims, including male and female prisoners, to torture practices in detention centers, which often involved sexual violence, the report reads.
Preliminary findings indicate that military personnel were most vulnerable to torture in these centers, and individuals with military families were also targeted.
According to the report, at least 36 victims mentioned the use of electrocution during interrogations, often involving genital electrocution by Russian guards.
Other victims reported threats of genital mutilation, and at least one witnessed the rape of another detainee using a foreign object covered in a condom.
“In relation to men, the majority of crimes is sexualized torture, and that’s usually torture of genitalia so that’s a form of punishment and kind of precludes them from having children,” said Anna Mykytenko, senior legal adviser and Ukraine country manager for Global Rights Compliance.
The report reveals that Russian guards in the Kherson torture chambers commonly employed techniques such as suffocation, waterboarding, severe beatings, and threats of rape against victims.
Wayne Jordash, managing partner and co-founder of Global Rights Compliance, stated that the torture and sexual violence tactics uncovered in Kherson detention centers suggest a range of crimes evocative of genocide in Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's plan to extinguish Ukrainian identity.
Mykytenko believes that some of the patterns observed in Kherson could eventually be classified as genocidal, but she acknowledges that proving such claims is difficult and requires further investigation.
On July 17, an investigation by the Associated Press found that thousands of Ukrainian civilians are detained in a network of formal and informal prisons across Russia and Russian-occupied territories, where they endure psychological abuse, torture, and slave labor.
On Aug. 2, Yurii Bielousov, the head of the War Crimes Department of Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office, stated that his team had recorded 98,000 war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Despite overwhelming evidence, Russia has consistently denied accusations of torture and human rights abuses in Ukraine.
Russian officials have not yet commented on this report.