March 2, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news


Days after the southern Ukrainian city was liberated, 29-year-old Ihor stood outside a Russian detention center in Kherson, reflecting on what he endured inside.

“I was held here for 11 days and during that time I heard screaming from the basement,” said Ihor, who asked CNN not to reveal his last name for his protection. “I was stabbed in my legs with a taser, they use it as a welcome. One of them asked what I was brought in for and two others started beating me in the ribs.

“People were tortured, they were beaten with sticks in the arms and legs, cattle prods, even tied to batteries and electrocuted or waterboarded with water,” he added.

Kherson was the first major city, and since the beginning of the invasion, only Russian troops could occupy the regional capital. Moscow’s armies took over the city on March 2, 2022 and occupied it for several months before being forced to retreat in early November, following a months-long offensive by Ukrainian forces.

The detention center in which Ihor was held was part of a network of at least 20 facilities that Ukrainian and international lawyers said was part of a calculated Russian strategy to erase Ukrainian identity.

“These detention centers are linked, they follow very similar, if not identical, behaviors,” Wayne Jordash, head of the Mobile Justice Team, a collective of international investigators supporting Ukraine’s Attorney General’s Office, told CNN.

The investigation found that Russian forces in various occupied territories followed a very specific blueprint, with clear patterns pointing to the overarching plan of Moscow’s occupation of Ukraine.

“The first stage is essentially to detain and, in many cases, kill a category of people who are labeled ‘leaders’, that is, those who can physically resist the occupation, but also those who can resist culturally, Jordan said.

“The second phase is a sort of filtration process in which the population that remains outside the detention centers is continuously monitored and filtered, so that anyone suspected of being involved with ‘leaders’ or having been involved in organizing any form of resistance is also is then identified and either deported to Russia or held in the detention centers and tortured.”

Jordash said these methods were used not only in Kherson, but also in other areas occupied by Russian troops, such as the Kiev suburbs of Bucha and Borodianka. However, he added that the prolonged occupation of Kherson enabled Russian troops to push even further.

Ukrainian and international investigators also said they discovered financial ties linking these detention centers to the Russian state.

“Those detention centers have financial ties to the Russian state,” Jordash said, referring to documents discovered by the investigators. “These financial documents show that the civilian administration is funded from Russia and the civilian administration is financing the detention centers, so you have very clear patterns and very clear connections.”

CNN was unable to independently review the documents cited by the investigation.

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