In Kupiansk, Izium or Balaklia, in eastern Ukraine, cities recently conquered by Ukrainian forces, there are reports of arbitrary arrests and torture perpetrated by the occupants.
At Izium hospital, Mikhailo Tchindei, 67, recently walked again. His arm in a cast is a painful reminder of the Russian presence in the city. “On the night of August 27, the school near my house was bombed,” he describes. “There were Russian soldiers there and there were a lot of dead and wounded,” he says.
After that bombardment, the Russians arrested Tchindei accusing him “of having given the coordinates of the school to the Ukrainian forces”. They wanted to know where the Ukrainian troops were and if he communicated with them. “They put a bag over my head (…) and when I could see, recognize the place, it was the Izium police station,” he says.
SCREAMING DAYS AND NIGHT
In that bombed-out three-story building, Tchindei shows the five-by-five-meter cell where he was held for 12 days before the arrival of Ukrainian troops. There were about eight people in this dank basement cell, he recounts. He found, attached to the wall, a piece of the sack that he used as a bandage.
“On the second day they broke my arm. One person held my hand and another hit me on the arm with a metal bar. They beat me for two hours every day. I lost consciousness several times, ”she assures. “I was hit on my ankles, back, legs and kidneys,” adds Tchindei.
In the basement of the building, other detainees were in about ten cells spread over two levels. “I saw about 15 people,” he says, and “nobody left the place without being hit.” “I heard people screaming all day and night, seven days a week,” says the man. A woman detained not far from her cell was screaming “very loudly,” he adds. According to him, at least one man died in the basement.
On the first floor of the police station, a young officer, coming from Kharkov to investigate possible war crimes, begins to write his report in one of the offices where a great disorder reigns: files on the floor, broken chairs, overturned furniture. .
“We have a lot of work,” says the man who declines to give his name. “Investigators must check everything, including fingerprints”, he says, to compare them with those found “in Bucha (near kyiv, ndlr) or in other places where war crimes were committed”.
According to him, the alleged cases of torture will be reviewed by investigators who arrived in Izium yesterday. In one room, more than a hundred Ukrainian passports lie on the floor, on an old sofa and on a desk.
A few dozen kilometers from there, in Kupiansk, a volunteer nicknamed “Bronik” explains that “the police have detained and tortured those who have been fighting in the army since 2014, and pro-Ukrainians.” “I don’t know if those people died from torture. But there were people physically injured. With broken hands,” says the man. Others were captured, put a bag over their heads and beaten.
On Friday, the Ukrainian national police announced the discovery “of at least ten torture rooms in localities in the region of the Kharkov region.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later called the Russian occupiers “murderers” and “torturers.” (AFP)