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Occupied parts of Ukraine: Shocking report from Russian detention

Status: 07/26/2022 2:48 p.m

When the war started, Vladislav Buryak wanted to flee to his father, a government official. But Russians arrested him. After 90 days, the 16-year-old was released – and reports that his fellow prisoners were tortured.

By Rebecca Barth, RBB, currently Kyiv

To this day he hears the screams of the tortured and can smell their blood. Vladislav Burjak is a 16-year-old with rimless glasses, dark hair and a weak handshake. His eyes are set deep in the pale face, surrounded by dark rims. Buryak spent 90 days in Russian captivity.

“Needles are said to have been inserted into the genitals”, Rebecca Barth, WDR, currently Kyiv, about torture in Russian captivity

tagesschau24 11:00 a.m., 27.7.2022

Hundreds of Ukrainians are believed to be like him. Exactly how many is unclear. People keep disappearing from the areas occupied by Russia, reports refugees and human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch.

Above all, active and former soldiers, civil servants, journalists and activists are being pursued and arrested by the Russian occupying forces. What then happens to them is rarely made public. But 16-year-old Burjak wants to testify. If possible also before an international court.

“I saw how they tortured. I heard how they tortured. I spoke to the people who tortured them,” says Burjak in an interview with the ARD.

Shaded in white: advance of the Russian army. Shaded in green: Russian-backed separatist areas. Crimea: annexed by Russia.

Image: ISW/25.07.2022

“A Valuable Hostage”

He was arrested at a Russian checkpoint in Wasylivka in early April. He wants to leave his occupied hometown of Melitopol in southern Ukraine. In Zaporizhia, which is under Ukrainian control, about 125 kilometers away, his father, head of the district administration, is waiting for him.

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Today he says that Vladislav was a “valuable hostage”. The occupying forces wanted to free someone important to them. A circumstance that saved the teenager, he was not tortured.

But Burjak doesn’t know anything about this when the soldiers take him to the local police station. In the next 48 days he will have to do cleaning work here, including in the Russian torture cells.

“Blood-soaked bandages lay everywhere”

“There were large pools of blood on the floor, and blood-soaked bandages were lying around everywhere,” he reports. The Russians didn’t try to hide their actions: “They talk about it, laugh as if it were a show.”

Burjak’s statements cannot be independently verified. But they agree with the accounts of other prisoners or human rights organizations. The teenager reports hours of torture with rubber truncheons, iron bars and electric shocks. “They have a special device that they use to electrocute you. Then they connect wires and put something like sewing needles under your fingernails and turn on the electricity.” Sometimes the stun guns are also used on the genitals, says Burjak.

The journalist Stanislav Aseyev, among others, reports on similar torture methods. He was arrested in eastern Ukraine in 2017 and held in a notorious torture prison in Donetsk for two years.

And the human rights organization Human Rights Watch has also made such cases public. For her current report, she documented 42 cases of kidnapping and torture of civilians in the occupied territories in southern Ukraine. Two people died after being tortured by the occupying forces. “I am shocked by the brutality, cruelty and utter lawlessness that is taking place in these regions,” said Yulia Gorbunova of Human Rights Watch.

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Information about weapons – with torture

One of Burjak’s inmates couldn’t stand the brutality and cut his wrists with the lid of a can, the 16-year-old says. He then sat next to the man and held his hand until a Russian soldier entered the cell and called a doctor. “I don’t know what became of him then,” says Burjak.

The interrogations of the prisoners were mainly about weapons. Burjak reports that those who did not speak were tortured more severely. One day he came into the interrogation room to clean it up. There was a man hanging from the ceiling with wire. Below him, as Vladislav Burjak describes it today, there was a huge pool of blood, next to it a bucket full of blood and a Russian soldier. “He wrote down a statement as if nothing had happened.”

Exchange after 42 days

Burjak was in the police station for 42 days. There he was only able to wash himself for the first time after two weeks. There was no fresh air and little food and water. He was then taken to another accommodation where conditions are said to have been better.

Burjak estimates that more than 100 people were mistreated during this period. “But you have to remember: That happened before my time and will also have happened after my time there.” According to the regional administration, 415 civilians were kidnapped by Russian soldiers in the occupied parts of the Zaporizhia region. Many people are still looking for their missing relatives.

Buryak was lucky. He was released after three months – a difficult undertaking, because normally only soldiers are exchanged for soldiers.

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Long negotiations were necessary, but now Burjak is back with his father. But the screams of the tortured, he says, could not get out of his head.

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