A team of international experts has released a summary of their latest findings, indicating that a large number of prisoners held in makeshift detention centers in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine were subjected to torture and sexual violations. The Mobile Justice Team, established by the international humanitarian law firm Global Rights Compliance, has been working alongside Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors in the Kherson region since it was reclaimed from Russian control in November, following more than eight months of occupation.
According to the report, Ukrainian authorities are currently reviewing over 97,000 reports of war crimes and have filed charges against 220 suspects in domestic courts. The most significant perpetrators may face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, with the ICC having already sought the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has consistently denied allegations of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, maintaining that the actions were part of a "special military operation" aimed at "de-Nazifying" the country and protecting Russia. However, the latest report by the Mobile Justice Team, funded by Britain, the European Union, and the United States, sheds light on the harrowing experiences of victims in the Kherson region.
The report analyzed 320 cases and witness accounts at 35 locations in the region, revealing shocking details. "43% of the victims' accounts explicitly mentioned practices of torture in the detention centers, with sexual violence being cited as a common tactic imposed on them by Russian guards," the statement said.
The Russian Defense Ministry has not yet responded to the request for comment on the report's findings. In January, Reuters had reported on the scale of alleged torture in Kherson, with Ukrainian authorities disclosing that around 200 people had been illegally held. Survivors had recounted tactics like electric shocks and suffocation. At that time, the Kremlin and Russia's defense ministry had not responded to questions from Reuters regarding these allegations.
Anna Mykytenko, senior legal adviser at Global Rights Compliance, expressed that the true scale of Russia's war crimes remains unknown, but the psychological consequences of these cruel acts on the Ukrainian people will undoubtedly be long-lasting.
The report also revealed that at least 36 victims interviewed by prosecutors mentioned the use of electrocution during interrogations, particularly genital electrocution, as well as threats of genital mutilation. Some victims were forced to witness the rape of fellow detainees.
The report further noted that detainees most likely to undergo torture included military personnel, law enforcement officers, volunteers, activists, community leaders, medical workers, and teachers. The torture techniques most commonly used were suffocation, waterboarding, severe beatings, and threats of rape.