An investigation by the United Nations human rights office reveals the brutality of both sides in the war that has lasted for almost nine months.
Warning: This article contains explicit depictions of harassment and abuse.
Russia and Ukraine have tortured prisoners of war during the conflict in Ukraine, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has said, citing examples of abuse including beatings, use of electric weapons and forced genitals.
The findings of the OHCHR monitoring team in Ukraine were based on interviews with more than 100 prisoners of war (POWs) on each side of the conflict, which will soon enter its ninth month.
On Tuesday, the office called on Kyiv and Moscow – both parties to the Geneva Conventions that established the rules of war, including the treatment of POWs – “to investigate and prosecute all cases of violations”.
Matilda Bogner, the head of the monitoring service, told reporters in Geneva that “many” of the 159 Ukrainian prisoners interviewed reported torture and ill-treatment.
He gave examples of dog attacks, electric shocks and Tasers and military phones, and sexual assault.
Bogner said the treatment was intimidating and humiliating to the inmates.
A man held in a prison near the city of Olenivka, in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, said members of the Russian-allied forces “glued wires” to his genitals, nose and shocked him with electricity.
“They were just happy and not interested in my answers to their questions,” said the man.
Russian prisoners ‘welcomed beating’
Some Ukrainians described being stabbed, shot with a stun gun, threatened with lynching, hanged by the hands and feet, and burned with cigarettes.
“We also recorded different types of sexual violence, such as pulling the victim with a rope around his genitals, or forced genitals together with the threat of rape,” said Bogner.
Interviews with detainees in Ukraine took place after their release, as Russia did not provide investigators with detention facilities.
Russia, which entered Ukraine on February 24, denies torture or other ill-treatment of POWs.
On the Ukrainian side, Bogner also referred to the “clear evidence” of the summary execution of 175 Russian prisoners held by the forces of Kyiv, among other atrocities.
Meanwhile, the Russian prisoners said that the conditions were difficult and humiliating.
Some say they were stuffed in a car naked, with their hands tied behind their backs.
The UN team, which was granted access by Kyiv to the Ukrainian detention center, said it had also documented cases of what it called “acceptable beatings” in prisons.
“On several occasions, prisoners of war were stabbed or electrocuted with a ‘TAPik’ phone by the Ukrainian police or soldiers guarding them,” Bogner said.
Kyiv has previously said that it is looking into everything related to the treatment of POWs and will investigate any wrongdoing and take action.