Russian forces have tortured and beaten civilians in the areas of southern Ukraine they control as part of a series of abuses that could amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said over the weekend in a report that repeatedly undermined the public cause that President Vladimir had undermined. further undermined. V. Putin of Russia before the invasion.
Atrocities committed by Russian forces north of the Ukrainian capital Kiev have already sparked global outrage and have been the subject of war crimes trials by Ukrainian prosecutors, but the report by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, casts doubt on a spotlight on the south of the country, where the Russian occupation forces strictly control access and information.
From February, Russian troops pushed north from Crimea, a region of Ukraine that Moscow took in 2014, and took control of the area along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts, including in the provinces of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya .
“Russian forces have turned the occupied territories of southern Ukraine into an abyss of fear and wild lawlessness,” said Yulia Gorbunova, senior researcher for Ukraine at Human Rights Watch. “Torture, inhumane treatment, as well as arbitrary detention and unlawful detention of civilians are among the apparent war crimes we have documented.” Ms Gorbunova said that the Russian authorities should immediately end such abuses and understand that they would be held accountable.
The report did not explicitly link the alleged abuses to Russia’s war goals, but Putin has labeled the February invasion of Moscow as a special military operation to rid Ukraine of Nazis, an argument that presents the war to a Russian public as a noble mission. .
There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities on the Human Rights Watch report, but Moscow has in the past denied any abuse by its forces and has also said its missiles are targeting military, rather than civilian, areas.
Human Rights Watch said it spoke with 71 people in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions, describing 42 cases where Russian troops had detained people incommunicado or people had disappeared after being detained.
“People interviewed described being tortured or witnessed torture, through prolonged beatings and in some cases electric shocks,” the report said, adding that the injuries included severe burns; cuts; concussion; broken teeth; broken bones, including ribs; and broken blood vessels.
The Geneva Conventions allow opposing parties to an international conflict to keep combatants as prisoners of war or prisoners of war and also to detain civilians in certain circumstances, for example if they are considered a serious and ongoing threat to the detaining authority. But torture and inhumane treatment are prohibited and, when related to conflict, constitute war crimes. Political leaders can be charged with war crimes for abuses by their troops.
The Human Rights Watch report documented the torture of three members of the Ukrainian Territorial Forces held as prisoners of war, and said two had died.
Kherson province was the first part of the country to witness major civil protests against the Russian occupation at the outset of the invasion. This was followed by repression, which has become more brutal in Kherson as insurgents have carried out a series of bombings and attacks on local Russian proxy leaders and helped Ukrainian forces regain lost territory.