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Volodymyr Ivashchenko shows the basement where he sheltered in the initial days of the war, together with his wife, mother-in-law, daughter, and 3-year-old grandson, in Yahidne, April 17, 2022. His 70-year-old mother-in-law, Nadezhda Buchenko, died in the school basement during the internment by Russian forces. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

(基輔)-人權觀察今天表示,俄羅斯軍隊在2月下旬到3月佔領烏克蘭北部基輔及切爾尼戈夫地區期間,對平民實施即決處決、酷刑和其他重大迫害行為,顯然觸犯戰爭罪。

在4月訪問基輔和切爾尼戈夫地區17座農村及小城鎮時,人權觀察調查了22宗即決處決、9宗其他非法殺人、6宗被迫失蹤和7宗酷刑案件。有21位平民描述他們遭到不人道和有辱人格的非法拘禁。

「俄羅斯軍隊在戰爭初期佔領烏克蘭北部期間,犯下無數令人憎惡、非法且殘酷的暴行,」 人權觀察歐洲和中亞區副主任喬治・戈吉亞(Giorgi Gogia)說。「對平民實施這些暴行顯然觸犯戰爭罪,應該受到迅速、公正的調查,並予適當起訴。」

人權觀察從4月10日到5月10日共訪問65人,包括曾被拘押者、酷刑倖存者、受害者家屬和其他見證人。人權觀察並查驗了部分被指控暴行發生處的物證,以及受害者和見證人提供的照片與錄像。

自從俄羅斯於2月24日入侵烏克蘭,俄軍便一再涉嫌違反戰爭法,觸犯戰爭罪和危害人類罪。人權觀察稍早紀錄,3月分俄軍佔領期間,布查鎮和其他東北部城鎮與農村曾發生10起即決處決

Empty containers for surface-to-air missiles left behind by Russian forces in Novyi Bykiv, April 16, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

在22起最新紀錄殺戮案件中的一宗,據基輔地區的安娜斯泰莎・安德里夫納(Anastasia Andriivna)描述,3月19日,俄軍在她家搜出舊軍服,於是逮捕了她49歲的兒子伊霍爾・薩夫朗(Ihor Savran),當時她也在家。3月31日俄軍撤退後,安娜斯泰莎・安德里夫納在距離她家約100公尺的穀倉門外發現兒子的運動鞋,而後在穀倉裡面找到他的屍體。

一些平民談到被俄軍關在污穢、呼吸困難的場所,例如學校房舍的地下室、窗戶製造廠的房間和鍋爐間的低窪角落,時間長達幾天到幾個星期,只給少量甚至不給食物,缺乏淨水,而且不能上厠所。在亞西尼鎮(Yahidne),俄軍利用一處學校地下室將350位村民——其中至少70名兒童,包括5名嬰兒——關押了28天,即使只是短暫外出都予嚴格限制。室內缺乏新鮮空氣和躺下休息的空間,村民必須用水桶如厠。

「一星期後,所有人都開始劇烈咳嗽,」一位曾被關在這間學校的人說。「幾乎所有小孩都發高燒,咳到全身痙攣,還會嘔吐。」另一人說,有些人因久坐而出現褥瘡。有十位老年人過世。

在季梅爾鎮(Dymer),俄軍將幾十人關在鎮上窗戶製造廠中一個40平方公尺的房間長達數週,其中男性被蒙眼並用束帶縛手,只有很少的食物和水,用水桶如厠。

人權觀察紀錄到七宗酷刑案,俄軍士兵對被押人員進行毆打、電擊或假處決,藉以強迫他們提供情報。「他們用步槍對準我的頭,裝填子彈,然後我聽到三聲槍響,」一名當時被蒙眼的男性說。「我連彈殼落地都聽得一清二楚,以為自己死期到了。」

Boiler room next to the Yahidne school. Russian forces held over 350 villagers in a schoolhouse basement for 28 days. Ten older people died during this period. Their bodies were stored in the boiler room for days before being buried in the village cemetery, Yahidne, April 17, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

人權觀察紀錄到9起俄軍在沒有明確軍事理由下開槍擊斃平民的案件。例如,3月14日午後,一列俄軍車隊通過切爾尼戈夫西北方的莫赫納京村(Mokhnatyn)時,有一對17歲雙胞胎兄弟及其18歲友人遭士兵槍殺。

所有受訪的見證人都表示,他們是未曾參與敵對行為的平民,只有兩名酷刑受害者說自己曾為當地國土防衛隊成員。

烏克蘭武裝衝突各方都有義務遵守國際人道主義法(即戰爭法),包括1949年《日內瓦公約》、《日內瓦公約第一附加議定書》以及習慣國際法。有效控制特定地域的交戰武裝部隊應受1907年《海牙規則》和《日內瓦公約》等國際佔領法的約束。國際人權法,尤其是《公民權利和政治權利國際公約》以及《歐洲人權公約》則在任何時候都適用。

戰爭法禁止攻擊平民、即決處決、酷刑、強迫失蹤、非法拘禁和不人道對待囚犯。劫掠和搶奪財物也在禁止之列。若有「迫切的安全理由」,允許例外對平民加以拘押或指定住所。佔領領土的衝突方通常有責任確保其控制下的居民獲得食物、水和醫療服務,並協助救濟機構提供援助。

Holes dug in the Yahidne schoolyard, apparently from  the military use by the Russian forces, Yahidne, April 17, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

任何人基於犯罪意圖下令或實施嚴重違反戰爭法的行為,或幫助和教唆違反戰爭法,均負有戰爭罪刑責。部隊指揮官明知或應知此類罪行,但未著手制止或懲罰責任人的,應基於指揮責任負有戰爭罪刑責。

俄羅斯和烏克蘭都負有《日內瓦公約》的義務,應對己方部隊實施或在己方領土內發生的疑涉戰爭罪行為進行調查,並適當起訴責任人。犯罪被害人及其家屬應迅速得到適足賠償

一般而言,烏克蘭當局應採取措施保存可能對未來戰爭罪起訴至關重要的證據,包括封鎖埋屍地點以待專業開掘,埋葬死者前拍攝遺體及其周圍的照片,盡可能記錄死因,記錄被害人姓名和證人身分,以及蒐尋俄羅斯軍隊可能遺留的識別資料。

「日益明確的是,俄軍佔領區的烏克蘭平民承受了驚人的苦難,」戈吉亞說。「正義或許遲來,但應採取一切措施確保受難者未來有機會伸張正義。」

更多有關切爾尼戈夫和基輔地區的暴行紀錄,詳見下文(僅英文)。

An optical very high-resolution commercial satellite image collected on March 10, 2022 shows dozens of armored and support military vehicles in the yard of and next to Yahidne school, and possibly  more in the trees surrounding the school, and large vehicle tracks throughout the village with a higher concentration at the schoolhouse. Apparent impact craters from Ukrainian attacks are also visible in the village, the closest 60 meters northeast of the schoolhouse, where Russian forces held over 350 villagers for a month while they occupied the school and used it as a military base.

Summary Executions

Human Rights Watch has documented 32 apparent summary executions by Russian forces in Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, including 10 in a previous report on Bucha. Summary executions, irrespective of the victim’s status as a civilian, prisoner of war, or otherwise as a captured combatant, are serious violations of the laws of war. Anyone who orders or commits summary executions is responsible for war crimes.

Kyiv Region

Andriivka

Anastasia Andriivna, 66, the mother of 45-year-old Ihor Savran, lives in the village of Andriivka, 40 kilometers northwest of Kyiv. She said that when Russian forces took control of the area on February 26, they came to her home, confiscated her and her son’s cellphones, and threatened to kill anyone who kept a working phone. She gave them an old phone and hid her newer, working phone. On March 19, a commander and a soldier came to her door, demanding that she let them inside. They said they had a device that had sensed cell phone usage coming from the area. The commander took her into one room to search for the phone, while the soldier dragged Savran to a summer kitchen in the yard. Anastasia Andriivna heard the soldier find Savran’s old military overcoat, from his 1993 National Guard service, and start shooting at it. The commander ordered her to stay in the house for the next 30 minutes, “without moving,” and left with the soldier, taking Savran.

Door to one of the rooms in the Yahidne school basement. There is a calendar the residents drew to keep track of days. On the right side of the door, they kept a list of people who died, 10 in all, including their date of death, and on the left, a list of people, totaling seven, who were shot or were “disappeared,” Yahidne, April 20, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

On the night of March 30, Russian forces withdrew. The next morning, Anastasia Andriivna left home for the first time in weeks, hoping to find her son. About 100 meters from her home, she recognized her son’s sneakers, with a red stripe, sticking out of a barn door. She said:

He was lying there in a fetal position, with his hands tucked under his head, and his jacket draped over his shoulders. He had been shot in the ear, with blood covering his face. His best friend [Volodymyr Pozharnikov] was lying next to him; he had also been shot. His legs were bent in an unnatural position.

The stepfather of Anton Ischenko, 23, said that Russian forces came to their home in Andriivka and took Ischenko on March 3. Anton had been in the Ukrainian armed forces years earlier. The family found his body in a field in the suburbs of the village on March 31, the morning after Russian forces left the area. The stepfather declined to detail the state of Anton’s body but said that they had to identify him by his clothes.

Motyzhyn

On April 4, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Motyzhyn, a village about 50 kilometers west of Kyiv, saw the body of a woman whom the authorities identified as the mayor, Olha Sukhenko, 51, along with the bodies of her husband, Ihor, and son, Oleksandr. There was a fourth body, an unidentified man, who had tape covering his eyes and zip-ties lying next to him, indicating he may have been bound. His head had a large hole in it.

The four people appear to have been summarily executed, but Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm the circumstances of their deaths. A fifth body, an unidentified male with bruises and other marks, was found in a well nearby the mass grave on the same property. Human Rights Watch found evidence on the property and in the area in which the bodies were found that suggested that Russian troops occupied the area for an extended period, including discarded and partially consumed food and clothing consistent with that worn by Russian forces.

Russian forces dug pits and dugouts throughout the yard of Yahidne school and behind the school, while holding over 350 civilians in the school basement, Yahidne, April 17, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

Chernihiv Region

Novyi Bykiv

A Novyi Bykiv villager whom Russian forces had held with about 20 others in a boiler room said that on March 30, a day before the Russian forces withdrew, several soldiers came to the boiler room saying that they had an order to execute 8 detainees and asked if there were any “volunteers.” When no one stepped forward, they took away eight men. The following day, after Russian forces withdrew, the villager found the bodies of two of the eight men about 50 meters from the boiler room, their heads smashed. He said he heard that the body of a third detainee was also found a bit further away. Human Rights Watch has no information about what happened to the other five men.

Staryi Bykiv

Russian forces in the village of Staryi Bykiv rounded up at least six men on February 27. Viktoria Hladka, the mother of one of the men, said she was sheltering in the family basement when Russian forces took her son Bohdan, 29, and brother-in-law Oleksandr Mohyrchuk, 39, from their yard. They had been smoking cigarettes, having just come up from the basement. Bohdan was a post office employee while studying management in Kyiv, and Mohyrchuk was a construction worker. Hladka saw their dead bodies and four others in a field the day after the men were taken.

Russian forces left behind boxes of munitions at Yahidne school, which they used as their military base in the village, Yahidne, April 17, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch documented these killings through a telephone interview with Hladka just after Russian forces withdrew from the village. Human Rights Watch on April 16 went to Staryi Bykiv and spoke with Hladka, who said that following the Russian forces’ departure, Ukrainian law enforcement officers exhumed the bodies. An examination showed that some of her son’s ribs had been broken, and he had a knife wound to the heart and a shot in the head. Mohyrchuk had a knife wound near the heart and his neck had been slit. Hladka also provided the names of the other men found dead: Oleksandr Vasylenko, 39; Volodymyr Putiata, 46; Ihor Yavon, 32; and Oleh Yavon, 33.

Yahidne

In Yahidne, Russian forces held over 350 villagers in a schoolhouse basement for 28 days, severely limiting their ability to leave, even for brief periods. Valerii Polrui, a local councilman from Yahidne, said that a village resident, Viktor Shevchenko, was shot on March 3, the day Russian forces arrived in the village. Polrui said that one of the soldiers told him that Shevchenko was shot because he was a major in the Ukrainian armed forces, which he said was untrue. Shevchenko’s body was found a month later, buried in his own backyard. Ukrainian law enforcement officers exhumed Shevchenko’s body and conducted a forensic exam. Polrui said that the forensic exam showed that Shevchenko was shot in the head.

The bodies of two men who had been visiting Yahidne were found in a cellar on March 6 or 7. A villager who saw the bodies said their hands were tied behind their back and that each had two bullet wounds, in the head and in the back. Both were in their 40s.

Petro Tolochyn, in his 50s, was believed to be a retired lieutenant colonel who had a holiday home in Zolotynka, about 6 kilometers from Yahidne. One of the women held in the school basement and who sat close to the door, which had cracks in it, described seeing an armored vehicle bringing Tolochyn, covered in a blanket, to the schoolyard. She saw Russian soldiers put him on his knees and question him, and then throw him into the boiler room on the other side of the schoolyard.

Boiler room in Novyi Bykiv center, where Russian soldiers detained civilians they had rounded up in the village. At least 20 people were kept in it for several weeks in March 2022,  April 16, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

The following day, the soldiers brought him to the basement, but took him away next morning, allegedly to take him to a hospital. Another villager in the basement who said he knew Tolochyn well and recognized him there, said Tolochyn’s body was discovered after Russian forces withdrew on March 31. Human Rights Watch visited the school on April 17 and saw a body bag. A villager who had identified Tolochyn’s body said it had gunshot wounds to the temple and left leg.

Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske

On March 4, Russian forces detained Oleh Prokhorenko, 38, in the town of Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske. He was allegedly using his phone to film Russian troop movements and provide the information to Ukrainian forces. Witnesses said they saw Prokhorenko, after he was detained, digging trenches for the Russian soldiers, a laws-of-war violation. Then no one saw him for weeks. His body was found on April 8 in the nearby woods, shot and buried. The forensic exam on file with Human Rights Watch says that he had gunshot wound to the head with skull fracturing and brain destruction.

Unlawful Killings of Civilians

Human Rights Watch documented nine cases of apparently unlawful killings of civilians by Russian forces in the Chernihiv region. Parties to an armed conflict, including occupying forces, may not attack civilians unless they are directly participating in the hostilities. Parties must do everything feasible to verify that targets are military objectives, such as soldiers, weapons, and military equipment.

Left: Entry to the pit in the boiler room where five men were held for several days in late March. Right: Inside the pit in the boiler room. One was hurt and was lying down, while others could only stand or bend down, Novyi Bykiv, April 16, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

On March 14, between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., as a Russian convoy passed through Mokhnatyn village, soldiers shot to death 17-year-old twin brothers Yevhen and Bohdan Samodiy and their friend, Valentin Yakimchuk, 18. Yevhen and Bogdan were in vocational training to become electricians, while Yakimchuk was a first-year university student in Chernihiv.

The twins’ sister, Tanya, and other witnesses said that Russian forces had not occupied Mokhnatyn. Tanya said by phone that a Russian convoy earlier that day had been attacked near Mokhnatyn, and vehicles had scattered to various villages, including Mokhnatyn.

Tanya, who lived on the main road, said that her brothers and Yakimchuk had left for a friend’s house early that afternoon. She was at home when she heard the rumble of a convoy heading from the village center on the main road toward her house. After shots were fired, she immediately ran toward the village center and saw about 10 Russian military vehicles on the road, including armored personnel carriers, vehicles hauling rockets, and a gasoline supply truck.

When she arrived at the site of the incident, neighbors told her to get her parents. When she returned with them, they saw the bodies of the three on the ground. Yevhen and Yakimchuk were dead. Witnesses said half of Yakimchuk’s head was gone and Yevhen had been shot in the chest. Bohdan was wounded in the abdomen and still alive. His mother and her partner drove him to the Chernihiv children’s hospital, but Bohdan died before they arrived.

On March 4, in Nova Basan village, Russian soldiers shot dead Dmytro Solovei, 14, who was kicking around a football on a playground near his house. His brother, Serhii, 30, who saw Dmytro playing, went outside to bring him in, but also got shot at and wounded in the leg. Serhii managed to crawl to a neighbor’s house and get first aid. He could not seek professional medical assistance until Ukrainian forces regained control of the area on March 31. Their mother, Anzhela Solovei, said on May 10 that Serhii remained hospitalized, and his recovery was expected to take several months.

Yahidne school from behind and the green door entrance to the school basement where Russian forces held over 350 village residents for 28 days, Yahidne, April 17, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

On February 28, also in Nova Basan, Russian soldiers apparently shot Mykola Kucherina, about 40, in the head as he passed by their post. The village administration chief said that although the family knew about Kucherina’s death, his body remained there for a month, as the Russian forces did not allow his parents to collect it.

Three residents of Levkovychi village said that around 6 p.m. on February 28, Russian forces entered the village and shot dead four men – Oleksandr Oryshko, Oleksandr Derkach, Yaroslav Varava, and Serhii Nimchenko – in the village center. The residents said that the men were unarmed and that each suffered multiple bullet wounds.

Enforced Disappearances

Human Rights Watch documented six cases in which Russian forces detained civilians, but their families could find no information about their circumstances or whereabouts. During an international armed conflict, failure to acknowledge a civilian’s detention or to disclose their whereabouts in custody can constitute an enforced disappearance, a crime under international law. The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has since February 24 documented 204 cases of enforced disappearances involving 169 men, 34 women, and a boy, the overwhelming majority of them attributed to Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups.

Russian soldiers detained Anatolii Shevchenko, a Yahidne resident in his 40s, on March 4. His next-door neighbor saw him being apprehended and again later sitting handcuffed on the concrete near the schoolhouse where other residents were arriving to shelter in the school basement. For a month, Russian forces used the school as their base. Shevchenko’s family members told the neighbor, who sees them regularly, that they had received no news of Shevchenko’s whereabouts.

Inscription on a door frame indicates five adults and one child were held in this room. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

On March 4, around 3 p.m., five Russian soldiers detained Mykyta Buzinov, a 24-year-old taxi driver in Chernihiv city, at his house in the town of Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske. His uncle, Borys Buzinov, who was at home at the time, said that the soldiers checked everyone’s phones and saw that Nykyta had provided information to the Ukrainian forces. The soldiers first took Buzinov and his girlfriend, Katya, and then his mother and uncle to a nearby veterinary clinic, where the Russian forces were encamped.

Later that evening, the soldiers released everyone except Buzinov, saying they would talk to him and release him later. The encampment relocated the following day and Buzinov has not been seen since then. Borys Buzinov has been trying to locate Nykyta since his detention and spoke to members of various Russian units stationed throughout Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske in March, but he could not obtain any information about his nephew’s whereabouts.

Inscription on a door frame indicates 19 adults and 9 children were held in this room. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

Natalia Tarashenko, 48, and her husband, Mykola Sadovyi, 47, residents of Krasne, Chernihiv region, moved to her mother’s house on the other side of the town because their house was close to Ukrainian positions on the main road. Her husband stayed to take care of the household and domestic animals. On March 9, their neighbor’s child came to Natalia to say that her husband had not been seen for two days.

Sadovyi had told the neighbor on March 7 that he had run out of his heart medication and was planning to bicycle to Chernihiv to buy it. He was with his friend, Kostya Sivko, who also disappeared the same day. They are concerned that Russian forces took them into custody. Although Krasne remained under Ukrainian control, to get to Chernihiv, the men would have had to ride on roads controlled by Russian forces, through Russian checkpoints, and also pass through Yahidne, which was under Russian control at the time.

On March 10, Serhii Molosh, 39, and his friend, Vitalii Kulik, were missing from the village of Ryzhyky, about 22 kilometers north of Chernihiv, and there are concerns that they were taken into custody. Serhii’s mother, 69, said the men set off by foot during daylight hours to buy meat in the village of Riabtsi, 2.5 kilometers away. They never reached Riabtsi and were not heard from since. Villagers knew of no shelling in either village or on the road between them. Russian forces were in full control of the area where Ryzhyky and Riabtsi are located, and Russian armored vehicles were patrolling the road between both villages as well as other neighboring villages.

Unlawful Confinement and Inhuman, Degrading Detention Conditions

Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases in which Russian forces rounded up and unlawfully detained civilians in dirty and suffocating conditions, restricting their access to food, water, and toilets. The Fourth Geneva Convention applies to all civilians, who are considered protected persons when under the control of belligerent or occupying forces. The Geneva Conventions permit the internment or assigned residence of protected persons only for “imperative reasons of security,” as a measure of last resort. In the cases investigated, Human Rights Watch found no basis for detaining civilians. The ban on torture and other ill-treatment is absolute under both the laws of war and international human rights law.

Inscription on a door frame indicates 28 adults and 5 children were held in this room. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

Chernihiv Region

Yahidne

Russian forces entered Yahidne, a small village 15 kilometers south of Chernihiv city, early March, after days of shelling. For 28 days, they held over 350 civilians, almost the whole population, in the basement of the village schoolhouse without ventilation in extremely cramped and unsanitary conditions. They severely limited people’s ability to leave the basement, even for brief periods, arbitrarily depriving them of their liberty. Seventy were children, including five infants. During this time, 10 died, all older people.

On March 3, Russian forces rounded up the villagers or otherwise ordered them to the school basement ostensibly for their own safety. Some refused and were allowed to remain in their homes because they were sick or were providing someone health care.

Russian forces turned the school into a military base, thereby endangering the villagers detained there.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 people detained in the basement, which consisted of two large rooms and a warren of six smaller rooms. They said that during the first few days Russian soldiers did not open the door at all, and subsequently opened it no more than once a day, allowing people to leave irregularly to use the outdoor toilet and to cook over outdoor fires, and at times allowing some detainees to go home to bring food back to the basement. They described the suffocating lack of air, the absence of space to move around or lie down, and having to use buckets for toilets. Many fell ill.

Some villagers went voluntarily to the basement, fearing the continued shelling. Some were directly coerced. Olha Volodymyrivna said that on March 3, three Russian soldiers came to her house, beat and kicked her husband, Volodymyr, 63, in her presence, smashed his phone, and locked both in their stand-alone cellar for two days, while the soldiers lived in their house. On the third day, they ordered the couple to go to the school basement.

On March 3, Volodymyr Ivashchenko was sheltering in the basement of his home with his wife, mother-in-law, daughter, and 3-year-old grandson, when five soldiers banged on the basement door and ordered everyone out. Ivashchenko’s 70-year-old mother-in-law, who walked with a cane, remained inside. Ivashchenko explained to the soldiers that she had difficulties walking. She left the basement only after one of the soldiers threatened to drop the grenade he was holding if she did not leave. The following day, Ivashchenko and his family walked to the school basement. He described the conditions there:

It was damp and everyone was coughing. There was not enough air…. There were hundreds of people [and] nowhere to sleep, we were locked there for days at a time, used buckets as toilets. Imagine sitting on a chair for weeks, no place to even lie down.

A woman from Yahidne said:

The room had no light. We could only sit on small children’s chairs or narrow benches. Our baby was sitting and sleeping on laps. The air was filled with dust and the smell of lime from the walls. … After a week everyone was coughing violently. Almost all the children had high fevers, spasms from coughing, and would throw up. We tried not to walk unnecessarily, because people were sitting so densely that it was only possible to move sideways…

We tried not to drink much because there was not enough water, and we were anxious that the soldiers would not allow us to use the … small outdoor toilet. They … [soldiers] didn’t give us food during the first days. … After that, they allowed some of us to go home for food supplies. They allowed us to make a fire near the exit and cook for ourselves. We were able to provide a half liter of [cooked] food per two people.

She also said the soldiers would not allow a 63-year-old man with cancer, for whom sitting was painful, to go home. They said he could “hang himself” to alleviate the pain. Some people developed bedsores from constant sitting. Around March 20, several children and adults came down with chickenpox and secondary infections from scratching the blisters.

Halyna Tolochyna, who spent nearly a month in the Yahidne school basement, said that to keep track of days, together with another woman, she drew a calendar using chalk on one of the basement doors. On the right side of the door, she kept a list of people who died, 10 in all, including their date of death, and on the left, a list of people, totaling 7, who were shot or were forcibly disappeared.

Tolochyna said 2 of the 10 people had died at home a few days after the soldiers let them leave because of their rapidly deteriorating health. Among the eight who died in the basement was Ivashchenko’s mother-in-law, Nadiia Buchenko. Ivashchenko said:

Imagine sitting on a chair for weeks. Nowhere to lie down, and not enough air. Her legs got swollen and her blood pressure would drop a lot. We had no medications and could not leave. She died on March 28. Her body was moved to the boiler-room and two days later, Russian soldiers allowed me to … bury her at the cemetery.

Some former detainees were still hospitalized when Human Rights Watch visited on April 17 for various ailments they contracted during their confinement.

Among them was Ivashchenko’s wife, Liubov, 50, who went to the hospital on March 31, the day they were released. Her legs had become swollen, and she was having difficulty walking.

Nova Basan

Mykola Diachenko, 63, head of the village administration in Nova Basan, spent 26 days in Russian custody, in five locations, including a post office building, a warehouse, a summer kitchen, and a cellar.

Russian soldiers detained Diachenko on March 5 at home, together with his deputy. Diachenko said that the Russian soldiers rounded up every man on his street as the soldiers were establishing control over the village. He said:

They demanded that we put on some clothes and follow them. I asked if I could take my eyedrops, [they said] I would not need them anymore. I thought they knew I was the head of the village administration, and they were going to shoot me.

One of the detention places was in a stand-alone underground cellar, which was no more than nine square meters, with 20 detainees, all men from 22 to 65. They spent two days there, with the door sealed shut. People started to suffocate. Diachenko said, “We started banging on the door, pleading [for someone] to open it and let us breathe. Eventually, the soldiers left the door slightly open to let some air in.” The men inside were given no food, only two liters of water for the 20 to share.

Novyi Bykiv

On March 24, seven or eight Russian soldiers came to the home of Volodymyr Zhadan in Novyi Bykiv, started shooting in the air, and demanded that he hand over his phone. Zhadan, 64, said:

I was in my underwear. … They started to beat me [with rifle butts], pushed me to the ground and started to kick me in the stomach, legs, back, demanding my phone. …Then they blindfolded and handcuffed me from behind and took me away. They only allowed me to put on my slippers and a jacket, no pants.

Zhadan said he was taken, together with two neighbors, to the basement of the village preschool. “They took the blindfolds away, but it was completely dark,” he said. “We spent the night there, freezing in complete darkness.” In the morning, the Russian soldiers gave him pants, blindfolded him again, and took him for questioning next door at the village school. After Zhadan was released, later that evening, he found his house had been trashed and looted.

On March 24, soldiers detained a 66-year-old Novyi Bykiv villager because they found he had a cell phone. They took him to a small boiler room in the village center, which was holding about 20 people. In the far-right corner was a pit several meters deep. Soldiers put him in the pit, where he spent five nights together with four other detainees. He said he was allowed to use the toilet only three times during the five days, that they were given no food and just one bottle of lemonade a day for all five men. “One of the detainees was in handcuffs all the time; his hands were swollen,” the villager said.

Kyiv Region

Dymer

After the Russian offensive began on February 24, Ihor Zyrianov, a 58-year-old hair stylist from Kyiv, fled to his summer house in Bohdany, a village about 80 kilometers north, together with his wife and 12-year-old daughter. On the morning of March 21, Zyrianov and five friends, including two women, got together at the home of his neighbor, Pavlo Rudyk, 47, because he had internet reception. Soon six Russian soldiers, wearing masks, arrived in an armored vehicle. They ordered everyone out, checked their documents, and stole US$11,000 that Zyrianov said he had in his passport folder.

The soldiers confiscated the two vehicles parked in the yard, took off the license plates and sprayed a “V,” one of the Russian symbols for the Ukraine conflict, on them. They blindfolded the four men, handcuffed them behind their backs with plastic zip-ties, and bundled them in the trunks of the two cars. They put the two women in the back seat of one of the cars and drove all six about 30 minutes to the window manufacturing plant complex in the town of Dymer.

There, they were taken to a 40 square-meter room that Zyrianov described as a compressor station with a big industrial air pump in the middle of the room. The six friends spent three days in custody there. At least 30 others were already in the room when they arrived, and the number grew to 49 by the end of the day. Zyrianov said the detainees ranged in age from 17 to 73, and that at least eight were 17 and 18, and that one young man had been detained there for two weeks before they arrived.

Zyrianov and Rudyk, interviewed separately, each said there was very little light in the room. There were two buckets instead of toilets, one 20-liter bottle of water and one hose for drinking and that everyone, except the women, was kept blindfolded and handcuffed with zip-ties.

Zyrianov said:

The door had a small hole, which allowed enough light for us to know whether it was a day or night. People slept and sat on the ground, on plastic buckets, or on some cloths, no beds… There was not enough space for us to lie down, so we slept in shifts. Food was given once a day... Once there was barley, once pasta, and once some kind of boiled rice. We… learned how to loosen the zip-ties when the door was closed and would lift the blindfolds when Russian soldiers were not there.

On March 23, a Russian officer told the detainees that they would be released in groups. Zyrianov, Rudyk, and their four other friends were in the second group, together with three others. They were taken, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the center of Dymer at around 4 p.m. Zyrianov said that the Russian soldiers told them that they would be killed on the spot if they were detained again.

When they returned home, both men discovered that their houses had been looted. Rudyk said that among the items stolen were a car, his wife’s wedding ring, a generator, tools, Bluetooth speakers, about $30,000 in cash, and a watch worth US$22,000.

Torture and Other Ill-treatment

Dymer

Zyrianov and Rudyk described the abuses they endured during their three days of detention at the window manufacturing plant. Zyrianov said that on the first day, March 21, Russian soldiers confiscated their phones and demanded access codes. Each day, soldiers interrogated them, one by one, for 10 to 15 minutes each, in a nearby room. He said that the soldiers had nicknames for all detainees, and they called him “American” because of the US visas in his passport.

He was interrogated, while blindfolded, three times about where he served in the military and why he had traveled to the United States. Soldiers hit him twice with a rifle butt when they did not like his responses. Zyrianov said that he was spared compared to others: “They used ‘electric shockers’ and beat some detainees. We could hear the screams.”

Rudyk said soldiers interrogated him twice and subjected him to a mock execution:

I sat blindfolded and handcuffed. They told me that it was over for me. They put a rifle to my head, loaded it and I heard three shots. I could hear the bullet casings falling on the ground too. …They told me that they would not miss next time if I don’t tell them everything… whether I participated in the Maidan events [2013 protests in Kyiv] or whether I fought in the 2014 war. Second time they interrogated me, they used an electric shocker on me. They shocked me on the back of my head. It was very painful.

Rudyk said that as of mid-April, more than 40 people detained at the window manufacturing plant were still missing. Rudyk and Zyrianov said that on April 14, two other detainees – a Red Cross volunteer driver and a nurse – were missing after the ordeal. In an April 27 CNN report about the window manufacturing plant industrial site, reporters interviewed Volodymyr Khrapun, a former detainee whom Russian forces forcibly transferred to Russia, together with dozens of other window manufacturing plant detainees. Khrapun appears to be the Red Cross driver whom other detainees had described, and who told CNN he was released as part of a prisoner exchange.

Nova Basan

Mykola Diachenko, the Nova Basan village administration head, said that at one of the five sites where he was held, Russian soldiers took him outside with other detainees. They blindfolded them and demanded that they cooperate if they wanted to survive. Diachenko then heard rifle shots, thinking that someone had been executed. They also threatened to hang him by his feet, stab his fingers, and impale him on a wooden pole so he “would die in a lot of pain.” At the fifth detention site, a small summer kitchen packed with detainees, the soldiers threatened to throw in a grenade. “I was sure that I would not survive the detention,” Diachenko said. He and others detained with him were freed after Russian forces withdrew from the area.

In Nova Basan, Human Rights Watch spoke with a villager who participated in the local territorial defense unit, the quasi-military resistance groups in Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. On March 9, about 15 Russian soldiers arrived on an armored vehicle and took the villager and his 25-year-old son, also an active resistance member, at gunpoint. They pushed them to their knees, while firing their rifles in the air, tied their hands behind their back and ordered them to show where they had hidden their guns.

Inscription on a door frame in Yahidne school basement, noting the number of adults and children in a particular room. There were 136 adults and 39 children in this room. Yahidne, April 20, 2022. © 2022 Human Rights Watch

The soldiers took the son to their basement and made him dig out buried guns. The soldiers blindfolded the villager, put him in an armored vehicle and took him to a farmhouse. “They put me on a chair,” he said. “I told them that I had given them all the weapons I had, but someone then kicked me in the back of the head, and I fell off.”

The soldiers released him the next day, detained him again on March 12 and held him until March 31. They took him back to the farmhouse and threatened to cut his hands off or run over him with a tank if he did not tell them more about the resistance.

The villager said that one soldier tied his hands together in front with a zip-tie and hung a cable from the ceiling roof, pulling his hands upward, the tips of his toes touching the floor. He said the only way to avoid pain was to stand on tiptoes. He was kept in this position for two or three hours. He was set free after Russian forces withdrew from Nova Basan.

Hostomel, Kyiv region

Oleksandr Novichenko, 35, evacuated his mother from Hostomel, but stayed behind to feed his and his neighbors’ domestic animals. On the afternoon of March 27, as he was closing the neighbors’ gates, a Russian soldier took him into custody, tied his hands behind his back with a zip-tie, blindfolded him, and pushed him down into a basement, where for two days soldiers repeatedly questioned and electroshocked him.

“The zip-tie was so tight that my wrists were swollen,” he said. “I had an open wound on my knee, and they would shock me right there … I was screaming from pain, telling them that I knew nothing, but they would go on shocking me.” After two days, the soldiers put a black bag over his head and released him in the village.

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