The blood of Ukrainian detainees is still visible on the floor and on the wooden batons Russian forces used to beat them. Ukrainians were tied to metal-framed chairs before being electrocuted with cables or choked with a length of rope.
Proof of the horrors to which local residents were subjected during more than six months of occupation was revealed on Sept. 19 in a dark and dust-filled basement under the police station in Izium, a strategic city in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region that was liberated during a recent offensive. Among the instruments used to terrorize people were Soviet-era gas masks that had been modified to prevent the victim from being able to breathe once they were placed on their face.
As of Sept. 19, police had identified the names of 20 people who were either tortured or interrogated at the station, according to an ongoing investigation. They were locals accused of working against the occupying forces. People spent weeks or even months trapped inside, said Serhiy Bolvynov, chief investigator of police in the Kharkiv region.
The site is just one of at least 10 torture chambers discovered in territories liberated two weeks ago. One detention center in Izium was described as “so ugly and dirty, it’s inhuman” by a police investigator who preferred not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of his work. “I don’t know how people could survive there. I’ve been with the police for so many years, but I was severely shocked,” he said.
Izium, a small city that played a vital logistics role for the Russians, was the main prize taken in a Ukrainian offensive that liberated most of the region so quickly that Russian forces abandoned their munitions and armored vehicles when fleeing their positions, leaving belongings and half-eaten food behind. Approximately 3,000 square miles of land was liberated in a week, in a rapid territorial advance that stunned the world and has changed the course of the war. It was Moscow’s biggest military defeat since it was forced to withdraw its troops from around Kyiv in April. Yet its importance as a support base for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army also means Izium suffered some of the worst fighting — it took Russia almost one month to seize control of the city in April.
The torture chamber reveals the continued brutality of Russian troops over the populations it seeks to absorb and rule, as well as the depth of the horrors likely concealed in the territories over which Moscow still presides, seven months into the invasion. [Continue reading…]