Ukraine: Rudik details ‘systematic war crimes’ found in Kherson
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Vladimir Putin’s Russia built at least 20 “genocidal” torture centres in Ukraine’s Kherson region in a bid to destroy the country’s identity, with waterboarding and electric shocks commonplace, a disturbing new investigation has claimed. Barrister Wayne Jordash KC has warned there are almost certainly multiple similar facilities in the country yet to be discovered.
Evidence published by the pioneering Mobile Justice Team, supporting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General’s investigation into Russian war crimes, includes financial records directly linking the centres to the Russian state – and Putin himself.
The Mobile Justice Team was established by the international human rights law firm, Global Rights Compliance, in April 2022.
Mr Jordash, Managing Partner of Global Rights Compliance, who is leading the team, said: “Putin’s plan is to occupy Ukraine, subjugate the Ukrainian population to Russian rule and destroy Ukrainian identity. This plan is becoming clearer as the evidence of war crimes proliferates and as our investigations progress.”
Mr Jordash added: “The mass torture chambers, financed by the Russian State are not random but rather part of a carefully thought out and financed blueprint with a clear objective to eliminate Ukrainian national and cultural identity. The torture centres are the tip of the iceberg in Russia’s inherently criminal plan to subjugate or destroy Ukrainians”
They were specifically designed to “eliminate and destroy large parts of the Ukrainian population” in order to enslave the remainder, Mr Jordash said.
He added: “This is yet more evidence of genocidal tactics baked into Putin’s plan to extinguish Ukrainian identity in the areas under Russian occupation.
“Many more torture centres certainly exist around Ukraine in occupied areas and are being funded by Putin’s credit card.”
Evidence collected by the Office of the Prosecutor General and analysed by the Mobile Justice Team includes plans used by Putin’s occupying forces to establish, manage and finance at least 20 torture centres in Kherson, although more are expected to emerge as investigations proceed.
Torture centres in recently liberated Kherson were used to subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters, says the report.
Newly uncovered evidence indicates that the torture chambers were operated by different Russian security agencies including the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), local Kherson FSB and the Russian Prison Service.
Financial records proving a direct link between the torture centres and the Russian government were also uncovered.
One torture chamber was were discovered basement of an office block, and another in a former pre-trial detention facility.
Tyres were burned in the buildings to conceal up evidence of what had taken place there as the Russians rapidly fled Kherson, but some prisoner graffiti and the numbers on doors where Ukrainian prisoners were held remained.
Evidence has now been collected from over 1,000 torture chamber survivors in Kherson, with physical beatings, electric shock torture and waterboarding routinely used against Ukrainian women and men.
Pro-Russian slogans, poems and songs were discovered on cell walls, which prisoners were forced to learn and recite.
More than 400 people are also reported to have vanished from Kherson torture centres and it remains unknown whether they have been killed or taken to Russian-held territory.
Many victims reported being randomly stopped on the streets and detained for holding ‘pro-Ukrainian’ material on their phones.
Russian war crimes include indiscriminate shelling of civilians, deliberate killing, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, looting and forced displacement on a huge scale, as well as mass child abductions.
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So far an estimated 14,000 children have been abducted and forcibly displaced to Russia for ‘re-education’ and forced adoption since the invasion last year.
Before the invasion, Ukraine had 8,000 prosecutors, but none with specialised war crimes experience.
The Mobile Justice Team consists of 10 Ukrainian lawyers (and 25 international prosecutors and investigators), some of whom have returned from living and working overseas, who are strongly committed to finding justice for the crimes committed against their country and people.
Mr Jordash added: “The evidence of Russia’s war crimes is growing exponentially and becoming more complex as time goes on.
“The Mobile Justice Team is working round the clock with Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General to ensure these crimes are documented and investigated as thoroughly as possible and with maximum integrity so that we can create a bedrock of truth and a historical record which can be used both to counter Russia’s misinformation and to find justice for Ukraine’s victims.”
The Mobile Justice Team’s investigations are funded by the UK Foreign Office, the European Union and the US State Department.
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