Ukrainian investigators have uncovered a claimed “torture room“ in Kherson city where dozens of men were allegedly detained, electrocuted, beaten and some of them killed.
Police said Russian soldiers took over the juvenile detention centre
in around mid-March and turned it into a prison for men who refused to collaborate with them or who were accused of partisan activity.
Three neighbours and two local shopkeepers said they started hearing screams about six weeks after they saw Russian soldiers take over the building. The witnesses said they started seeing people being taken in with bags on their heads, and some bodies being removed.
Mykola Ivanovych, whose balcony overlooks the back yard of the
detention centre, said he saw two bodies thrown into the garages behind the centre. The Guardian was with press and prosecutors when they first entered the site, and the bodies had been removed.
“They would come out beaten up […] completely disoriented,” said Ira, who owns a kiosk outside the detention centre. “They would come in here and ask for directions and we gave them money for the bus.”
Witnesses said they never saw the faces of the men in charge of the
centre, as they wore balaclavas and were dressed head to toe in black.
Russian soldiers came to pension-age Vitaliy Serdiuk’s house in late
August. They turned the place upside down and shot in the air when neighbours protested, then took Serdiuk to the detention centre.
Serdiuk was beaten so badly within the four days he was held that his wife, Elena, said he has been afraid to leave the house for the last two months.
He was told the beatings were for his son, a serving soldier in the Ukrainian army. His son, who was not in Kherson during its occupation, was recently wounded while fighting.
Zhenia Dremo, an IT specialist, was struck on the forehead at a checkpoint for not having cigarettes to give to the soldiers, leaving a still visible scar. The Russians then took him to the detention centre.
“They only beat me a little – I was lucky,” said Dremo, “but my cellmates were heavily beaten.” He said Russian soldiers “attached one electro-rod to his [cellmate’s] balls and the other to his penis. Then for two hours I would sit there and listen to him scream,” he said. “I sleep badly at night to this day.”
Dremo said he only saw the people in his cell, but there were eight in his and they changed regularly. He said he overheard there were 23 cells in total, suggesting about 180 people could have been kept there at any one time.
“There were also women there,” said Dremo. “There were at least two female cells. We had one friend, Anna, who was in there. She wasn’t raped, but they shaved her head.”