Thousands of Ukraine civilians are being held in Russian prisons. Russia plans to build many more

Thousands of Ukraine civilians are being held in Russian prisons. Russia plans to build many more

The Associated Press reports:

The Ukrainian civilians woke long before dawn in the bitter cold, lined up for the single toilet and were loaded at gunpoint into the livestock trailer. They spent the next 12 hours or more digging trenches on the front lines for Russian soldiers.

Many were forced to wear overlarge Russian military uniforms that could make them a target, and a former city administrator trudged around in boots five sizes too big. By the end of the day, their hands curled into icy claws.

Nearby, in the occupied region of Zaporizhzhia, other Ukrainian civilians dug mass graves into the frozen ground for fellow prisoners who had not survived. One man who refused to dig was shot on the spot — yet another body for the grave.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians are being detained across Russia and the Ukrainian territories it occupies, in centers ranging from brand-new wings in Russian prisons to clammy basements. Most have no status under Russian law.

And Russia is planning to hold possibly thousands more. A Russian government document obtained by The Associated Press dating to January outlined plans to create 25 new prison colonies and six other detention centers in occupied Ukraine by 2026.

In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in May allowing Russia to send people from territories with martial law, which includes all of occupied Ukraine, to those without, such as Russia. This makes it easier to deport Ukrainians who resist Russian occupation deep into Russia indefinitely, which has happened in multiple cases documented by the AP.

Many civilians are picked up for alleged transgressions as minor as speaking Ukrainian or simply being a young man in an occupied region, and are often held without charge. Others are charged as terrorists, combatants, or people who “resist the special military operation.” Hundreds are used for slave labor by Russia’s military, for digging trenches and other fortifications, as well as mass graves.

Torture is routine, including repeated electrical shocks, beatings that crack skulls and fracture ribs, and simulated suffocation. Many former prisoners told the AP they witnessed deaths. A United Nations report from late June documented 77 summary executions of civilian captives and the death of one man due to torture.

Russia does not acknowledge holding civilians at all, let alone its reasons for doing so. But the prisoners serve as future bargaining chips in exchanges for Russian soldiers, and the U.N. has said there is evidence of civilians being used as human shields near the front lines. [Continue reading…]

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