Shocking Report on UAF Torture: “In the Cell I Saw the Characteristic Traces of Blood and Brains”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Authoritative human rights organization “Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union” and the Kharkov human rights group and non-governmental organization Truth Hounds published a joint report on the illegal detentions and torture by anti-terrorist operation forces in the zone of the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine.

The report of human rights activists was analysed by “Strana”.

What is said in the report

In the new report human rights activists documented the cases of detention of 23 people. The victims and witnesses of events told about tortures.

The map shows the number of persons who information was collected from to report the approximate place of detention.

The map showing where people were detained was shown to “Strana” by the Analyst of the Center of Documentation of the Ukrainian Helsinki group on human rights Andrey Gladun.

According to him, the testimonies of victims collected by the authors during separate monitoring visits from different sources allow to draw a conclusion on the widespread practice of detaining the local population in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on the suspicion of “separatism”. “It is, mainly, about the facts of detention in 2014-2015, but we managed to obtain testimonies much more later because people were still frightened and didn’t want to talk about what happened,” said Andrey Gladun.

Such detentions took place to violation of the standards of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. And the kidnapping and detention of the arrested persons in rooms that aren’t intended for this purpose without communication with the outside world allows to qualify such arrests as enforced disappearances.

Torture was often applied to the detained person, in particular, during interrogations, says Gladun. Below we give examples of human rights violations that are stated in the report.

Story of the shop owner from Starobeshevo

An elderly man Sergey, together with his son Andrey and grandson Aleksey were the owners of a shop in the city of Starobeshevo.

Andrey participated in the referendum on the recognition of the DPR in the Starobeshevo region, and in May, 2014, he enrolled in the armed DPR groups. But neither his father Sergey, nor his son Aleksey took part in the referendum and weren’t members of the DPR, however they continued to run the shop.

At the end of July, 2014, a car approached Sergey’s house, which 4 persons in Ukrainian military uniform exited from. Having learned the surname of Sergey, they fired two shots into the air and forced him to get into his car with his grandson Aleksey. Searches were conducted in the house and in the shop. After the searches, both detainees were brought to UAF positions on the suburb of the city. While dragging the men from the car, they hit them with rifle butts and threw him on the ground. They beat them with their feet and rifle butts until they lost consciousness. Sergey was accused of allegedly being a DPR sniper. During the beating, Sergey was forced to call a friend with a request to bring the car that was inside the shop premises. The military personnel appropriated the car for themselves. After beating both detainees, they were put in separate cars and driven in the direction of the village Sedovo.

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From this point onwards, Sergey saw his grandson Aleksey a lot. The persons who were transporting Sergey to the village Sedovo called each other by the call sign Dok and Myasnik.

Upon Sergey’s arrival he was placed in a basement and interrogation began. During interrogation one of the torture methods was applied – his head was kept in a tank of water by force.

The body of Aleksey, the grandson of Sergey, was found with numerous signs of violence the next day after their detention on the road in the vicinity of the village Starobeshevo. The family of the deceased gave a photo of the body to human rights activists.

Witnesses claim that representatives of the battalion “Azov” detained men.

This information is also confirmed by the fact that representatives of the battalion “Azov” with the call signs Dok and Myasnik were mentioned in the interviews of other victims as the performers of torture. After the death of his grandson, Sergey soon died because of heart troubles. Currently all materials on the case are lost by the investigators.

Story of the civilian from Marinka

Maksim, a resident of Marinka who didn’t take any part in politics, was detained in the territory of his own house by the Shakhtarsk battalion during the cleansing of the city of Marinka at the beginning of August, 2014.

A jeep without a registration plate approached the house. Maksim and 5 other male civilians from Marinka were bundled into the car, with their hands bound by plastic ties. At first the detainees were brought to the yard of one of the houses where soldiers carried out a search, having shot the lock. Subsequently the men were transported further.

On the road the detainees were used as human shields, covering them from sniper fire. According to the testimonies of the victim, the gunfire was in front on the road that they drove along, but not at the car itself. Afterwards the detainees were brought to the territory of a tire and assembly workshop, where they were forced to load tires.

In the evening of the same day they were transported to Mariupol. Upon arrival bags were placed on their heads, and they were chained in pairs with iron chains. On the first day the detainees were beaten. Maksim still has a scar on his back from being lashed, and he began to have problems with his kidneys.

In Mariupol the detainees were involved in forced labor: they cleaned toilets, dug holes, and all this time slept on the street in the open-air. Maksim claims that he and the other detainees were also taken to Ilovaisk and Shakhtersk during fights, where they were forced to collect the remains of those who had died in battle.

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Maksim was held in Mariupol for a month, and in September he was transported to Volnovakha, and then to the base of the “Shakhtarsk” battalion, in a boarding house near the city of Novomoskovsk in the Dnepropetrovsk region. At the beginning of November, 2014, Maksim managed to escape from the prisoner-of-war camp with the help of one of the fighters of the battalion. In total he was in captivity for more than 3 months.

Story of the rural electrician from Mariupol

Vyacheslav worked as an electrician in the village near Mariupol. After one of the attacks on the village in February, 2015, he went to an outpost to help repair the power line that had been damaged as a result of an attack. At the outpost he was immediately detained, and his passport seized. Vyacheslav’s hands were tied behind his back and his eyes covered, and his body bound with adhesive tape. He was brought to the country cooperative in the neighboring village, where they immediately started to beat him.

The beating continued for about three hours. In addition, when Vyacheslav was lying on the ground, the military personnel fired shots between his feet from a machine gun. After being beaten he was taken away to the territory of Mariupol airport. There the man continued to be beaten. Vyacheslav was forced to admit that he cooperated with separatists, and they ceased to beat him only when he agreed. He held him by the tongue and ears, threatening to cut them off.

Vyacheslav was forced to sign a written undertaking not to leave the premises. The person who forced him to do it was presented as an employee of the SBU. In the evening of the same day Vyacheslav was released. As it became clear later, he was detained because the Ukrainian military personnel considered that Vyacheslav was transferring information to separatists.

At the beginning of December, 2014, the village for a short time was under the control of separatists. On the day when representatives of the “Azov” battalion entered the village, Vyacheslav drove to work and saw their equipment.

That’s why the military drew the conclusion that it is precisely Vyacheslav who warned separatists about the offensive of the Ukrainian forces.

Story of the prisoner of Aidar [battalion – ed] from Bakhmut

In May, 2015, Yaroslav, a middle-aged man, using his own car gave a lift to a friend to a country house. At one of the outposts around Bakhmut they were stopped. They were overtaken by a car, from which a serviceman exited, got into the car of Yaroslav, and ordered them to go in the direction of one of the outposts. At the outpost both passengers immediately started to be interrogated on the suspicion of separatism.

The military personnel searched the car, then put bags on the heads of both detainees, tied their hands, and put them in the trunk. Yaroslav was hung up by his bound hands and began to be beaten; all of his teeth were knocked out on one side. One of the military personnel started making an incision on his ear. The friend of Yaroslav saw a chevron of “Right Sector” on one of the military men who was beating them. The beating continued until the truck didn’t reach the destination – the stronghold of the military.

“In that cell in which I was kept, apparently, someone was beaten to death. I saw characteristic traces of blood and brains. There it was horrifying… I understood that it is cells of torture that they had,” said the man to human rights activists.

At night the military personnel who beat Yaroslav came into the room and forced him to admit that he corrected artillery fire, planting on him a corrector’s notebook.

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As a result of a blow to the nape, the base of his skull was broken. According to Yaroslav, the men who beat him wore a chevron of the “Aidar” battalion on their uniform.

After the beating, the military personnel tried to convince Yaroslav to give testimonies, however he refused. He was beaten again, his ribs were broken. Afterwards the detainees were taken out to a field with bags on their heads and released. In a month he was detained once again – his hands were also tied together, a bag put on his head, and he was brought to a room of an unknown to him factory. During interrogation he was beaten, they imitated execution, shooting near his head and between his legs.

He was forced to write a statement that he has no complaints about the people who detained him.

Who bore responsibility

“We urge the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the cases specified in the report,” said the human rights activist Andrey Gladun to “Strana”. Human rights organizations earlier appealed to the General Prosecutor’s Office on the facts stated in the reports, but the reply of the State Office of the General Prosecutor didn’t satisfy them at all.

In response to the inquiry of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine reported that since April, 2014, until the end of 2016, for the crimes committed on the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions 45 employees of law enforcement agencies and 2 servicemen (from them – 41 persons – in the Lugansk region and only four in Donetsk) were made responsible under Article 146 of the Criminal Code – “Illegal Imprisonment or Kidnapping”; 1 employee of law enforcement agencies under Article 153 of the Criminal Code “Violent unnatural gratification of sexual desire”; 4 law enforcement officers under Article 154 of the Criminal Code “Compulsion to sexual intercourse”.

Also it appeared that the Prosecutor General’s Office didn’t find any violations committed by military personnel and law enforcement authorities under some other articles, in particular under Article 127 on “Torture” or under Article 438 on “Violation of laws and customs of war”.

“We are compelled to note that an effective investigation into the specified facts didn’t happen,” the interlocutor tells “Strana”.

Mariupol: Testimonies of the City of Shadows

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