Torture Chambers in Ukraine’s Kherson ‘Financed by Russian State’ -Investigators

Reuters file photo
A war crime prosecutor inspects a basement of an office building, where prosecutor’s office says 30 people were held for two months during the Russian occupation, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kherson, Ukraine, on December 20, 2022.

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – A network of at least 20 torture chambers in the recently liberated southern Ukrainian region of Kherson was “planned and directly financed by the Russian State,” war crimes investigators said on Thursday, citing new evidence.

The Mobile Justice Team, funded by Britain, the EU and the United States, has been working with Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors across Ukraine and in Kherson since it was reclaimed from Russian forces in November after more than eight months of occupation.

The Kremlin press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported on the scale of torture chambers in Kherson in January, when Ukrainian authorities said around 200 people had allegedly been tortured at 10 locations. Survivors told Reuters about being tortured, including electric shocks and suffocation techniques.

Moscow, which has said it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine, has denied committing war crimes or targeting civilians.

The mobile team, established in May 2022 by the Global Rights Compliance humanitarian law firm and backed by international experts, is supporting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General as it reviews more than 71,000 reports of war crimes nationwide since the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion.

“New evidence collected from recently liberated Kherson reveals torture chambers were planned and directly financed by the Russian State,” the team, established by British attorney Wayne Jordash, said in a statement.

Witnesses described the use of electric shock torture and waterboarding by Russian forces. At least 1,000 torture chamber survivors have submitted evidence to investigators and more than 400 people had been reported as missing from Kherson, it said.

Funding a network of torture facilities was part of a Russian state plan to “subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters,” the team said.

Torture centers were operated by different Russian security agencies, including the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), local Kherson FSB and the Russian Prison Service, it said.

Reuters was unable to verify the allegations.

An investigation is also underway by the International Criminal Court, part of a both domestic and international efforts to hold those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide across Ukraine to account.