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Ukraine recovers only 49 bodies of POWs since outbreak of war

The Russian Federation is abusing and torturing Ukrainian prisoners of war because it is sure that it will not be punished for its crimes. 

Ukraine recovers only 49 bodies of POWs since outbreak of war
Photo: Ukraine-Ukrinform Media Centre

Between 24 February 2022 and November 2023, Ukraine managed to return 49 bodies of servicemen who had been captured. This was stated by the executive chief of the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MHR), Tatyana Katrychenko, at the presentation of the analytics "Mission to Save: What is happening in Russian captivity and how to prevent the death of Ukrainian soldiers in it" at the Ukraine-Ukrinform Media Centre.

"49 bodies of servicemen who were considered to be in captivity were returned to Ukraine. This does not include those who could have died on the battlefield immediately when they were captured, and does not include those who died in Olenivka," she said.

She also added that this data was provided by the Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine at the request of the MHR.

Katrychenko noted that Russia mocks Ukrainian prisoners of war because it believes that it will not be punished for its crimes.

To stop the torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war by the Russians, we need the control of international institutions, including the International Red Cross, which is currently absent.

Ukrainian soldiers held in Russian captivity, when talking to human rights defenders, pointed out that representatives of international organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, did not visit them.

"Russia does not allow representatives of the Red Cross to visit places of detention of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Therefore, there is absolutely no control over what is happening to our prisoners of war in the places of detention," said Maria Klymyk, a journalist with the MHR.

Katrychenko also emphasised the importance of documenting the abuse of prisoners, as this will be a real argument in international processes.

During the so-called 'reception' process, when all prisoners of war are transferred to a new place of detention, they are beaten by guards one by one and without exception. Human rights activists have evidence of the deaths of several POWs during this process.

The conditions of detention do not allow for the healing of wounds. At the same time, healthy people's condition deteriorates during their captivity due to the conditions and constant torture.

"Very often, people simply stop breathing because they are subjected to electroshocks on a daily basis. We had evidence that prisoners were subjected to electroshock until it was completely discharged," added Maria Klymyk, a journalist with the MHR.

Former prisoner of war Bohdan Slobodyan told how a Ukrainian soldier was tortured in captivity in front of his eyes.

"The guy was kept in a punishment cell from the very first days. This is a place where a person goes crazy, they break him, and unfortunately, in most cases they succeed," Slobodyan said.

Slobodyan adds that during the walk, the man said that he was not allowed to sleep for a week, tortured 3-4 times a day, and this lasted for two months. In addition, he was forced to sign a confession to the alleged murder of a person.

"Apparently, the torturers achieved their goals, because the guy was transferred to the cell in a lying state and unresponsive. He was no longer able to take care of himself, his kidneys were failing, and an ambulance took him away in an unconscious state. He was never seen again," said the former prisoner, adding that the man was "tortured to death". 

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