The bodies of 534 civilians have been discovered in Ukrainian territories previously occupied by Russian troops, Serhii Bolvinov, who leads the investigative department of Kharkiv’s regional police, told journalists Thursday. Nineteen of those bodies belonged to children and 226 were women, he said.
The count includes remains that were found in shallow graves last month at a mass burial site in Izyum, where hundreds of corpses were discovered after Russian troops were forced out of the area by a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Bolvinov said authorities identified 22 sites that Russian troops used as torture chambers when they were occupying the area.
“In almost all the big towns and settlements where the soldiers of the Russian army were based, they arranged these locations for detaining civilians and prisoners of war, where they got tortured,” Bolvinov said. “The most common type of torture is connecting wires to shock someone’s body, and causing pain by that. Severe beatings with sticks and other items. There is also evidence of the nails being removed and other horrible things, including usage of a gas-mask to stifle breathing.”
He said the most recent torture chamber to be discovered by Ukrainian investigators in the region had been continuously manned by about 10 soldiers. It was in the basement of a house in Pisky-Radkivski, a village near where Russian troops positioned their headquarters.
Ukrainian detainees, who were captured for — among other things — breaking curfew or being accused of spotting for Ukrainian attacks, were held and tortured in that basement, which was about 8 feet long by 5 feet wide.
“We have witnesses who are giving us information on the fact that they heard people screaming, begging for help, to be let out, and sometimes people asked to go to the toilet from this basement,” Bolvinov said. “Sometimes, after these screams, the locals heard gunshots, and the screams stopped after that.”
In the basement, investigators found blindfolds, ropes, a dildo, military jackets, written notes of prisoner “confessions,” a telephone, a gas mask, and a plastic container full of dentures and teeth. The teeth have been sent to be DNA profiled, to identify who they belong to and determine whether they were taken from a local dentist.
Mariia Kashchenko contributed to this report.