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US report says hundreds were detained, missing in Ukraine’s Kherson

Washington DC, US

Hundreds of people were detained or went missing in Ukraine’s Kherson region while it was under Russian control this year, and dozens may have been tortured, Yale University researchers have concluded in a report backed by the US State Department.

“Russia must halt these operations and withdraw its forces to end a needless war that it cannot and will not win – no matter how despicable and desperate its tactics,” the State Department said in a statement on the report.  

Ukraine Kherson food aid queue

People wait for food aid after Russia’s retreat from Kherson, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine, on 17th November. PICTURE: Reuters/Murad Sezer

The report, seen by Reuters ahead of its Friday publication, documents detentions and disappearances of 226 people in Kherson between March and October, a quarter of whom were allegedly tortured and five of whom died in custody or shortly after.

Russia last week pulled its troops out of a pocket on the west bank of the Dnipro River in Ukraine, which includes Kherson, the only regional capital it had captured since the February invasion. 

The Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health that produced the report is a partner in a State Department-funded program called the Conflict Observatory, launched in May to capture and analyze evidence of war crimes and other possible atrocities perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine.

Russia denies its troops target civilians or have committed atrocities.

Nathaniel Raymond, the lab’s executive director, said the report corroborates warnings from the United States ahead of the conflict of Russian use of capture and kill lists against civilians.

“This is the strongest proof that that is happening,” Raymond said.

Open sources
The report, which drew from open sources of information, said most of the 226 were detained by Russia’s military or FSB, the domestic Russian security service that sent officers into the regions of Ukraine which Moscow overran.

The report cited multiple sources who said the Russian security forces had lists of names of targeted individuals and license plate numbers, as well as other information.

Some sources in the report were not identified to protect them. The researchers also identified 12 locations used for detention and interrogation in Kherson and Crimea.

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At least 55 of the reported detentions or disappearances include allegations of treatment that could constitute torture under international law, the report said, including beating, mock executions and Russian roulette, electric shocks and torture of relatives.

Several people reported being tortured for information about the position of Ukraine’s military units. Others said they were asked about the leadership of protest movements or opposition groups or tortured into confessing a crime, the report said.

Sixty government officials were among those who were detained or who disappeared, the report said, as well as 32 people who identified as Crimean Tatar, the Muslim Turkic group indigenous to the Black Sea peninsula.


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