Polish journalists have prepared a report on Russian war crimes in eastern Ukraine in 2014. This Report describes war crimes within the meaning of international law committed in eastern and southern Ukraine by soldiers and officials of the Russian Federation and by the proRussian separatist fighters. The crimes documented in the Report include unlawful deprivation of freedom, physical and mental tortures, robbery and murders. The documentary evidence described in the Report will be submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Political prisoners detained for pro-Ukrainian activities and individuals arrested for minor theft and misdemeanours. Detainees were held in rooms of an administrative building which were not adapted for that purpose. The detainees were intimidated and beaten with clubs. They were put on public display, driven around town and submitted to moral harassment.
More than 60 interviews were gathered in the course of collecting the materials for the Report. Here are some testimonies of the victims:
"There was “Chornyy” [one of the separatists] and several soldiers. He started to beat me all over my body with a truncheon, and the others started to hit V. M. who was also brought to that room. At a certain point, one of the soldiers told “Chornyy” to be careful, because of his recent stay in the hospital, and his back will ache. I told him then, “Sasha let somebody else do it so you will not get hurt”. He then gave the truncheon to a young soldier (of approximately 25) who started to hit me with that truncheon on the head".
"Over a hundred people were locked in that basement. We had one sink and at first one, then two holes that often got clogged, serving as toilets."
"Then they [overseers] dragged us all out of the cellar and beat us with a baton on our shins for about an hour".
"Guys from Donetsk, Luhansk and officers were beaten the most. Some of them had to be carried out of the interrogation room because they couldn’t walk on their own".
"They took us to the corridor and ordered to perform 500 knee bends and then, when the muscles were very tired and tense, they beat us with batons on our legs".
"They spread out the Ukrainian flag and ordered us to tread on it. Anyone who refused was beaten".
They were often kept in appalling conditions which were a threat to their lives, deprived of sleep as a way of exerting mental pressure, threatened by shots being fired over their heads.
"We were chained to radiators during the nights, handcuffed in the daytime".
"In the beginning we were using empty plastic bottles instead of a toilet but soon we ran out them. The ceiling in that cell was low, there was little air".
"They wanted me to transfer my real estate to them (…) They tried to force me to give them the PIN codes for my bankcards".
"They burnt him with cigarette lighters, stuck needles under his fingernails, they slashed him with a knife and broke one of his fingers (…) He got so severely beaten up that it was impossible to recognize him. Among others both his legs were pierced by a knife, his fingers were broken".
Various methods, some highly sophisticated, were used to humiliate and threaten the detainees: "… they wrapped me in the Ukrainian flag and made me wear earmuffs with the colours of the Ukrainian flag – a souvenir from the Euro 2012. They drove me in their Lexus to one of the streets of Donetsk where I was paraded all beaten up, covered just by the flag, as they prodded me with their guns, pushing me into the street announcing to the people that I was a murderer who had been directing fire at civilian buildings".
"They locked us up in the basement together with additional 17 of our soldiers who were captured at the airport terminal while waiting for us to come to their rescue. When we were brought in, they were being beaten by the guards".
Audio and video recordings were made of the interrogations of the detainees. If any detainee responded in a way other than what was expected by the interrogators, the camera was switched off and the detainee was beaten.
"He ordered me to put my hand on the table, and then he held my hand and was trying to cut my finger off with a knife (…) Another of the interrogators there used an iron to burn the hand of one of the detainees".
"At some point they gave handguns to 2 detainees and told them that if they killed one of their own, they will be freed".
"At some point one of the Chechens came to me, showed me a bullet and said: “this will be your death tomorrow” (…) I remember that in the room where I was interrogated, there was a dead body of a policeman. I remember that I was barefoot and I walked on blood".
"When I answered him that (…) I was born in Donetsk and Ukraine was my homeland, he started to beat me with a metal rod".
"I was tortured during the first 3 days while in Horlivka [Donetsk region]. The torturers changed. They were Russians who drunk vodka. As part of the tortures, a commander that was called “Soloviey”, had personally cut off a part of my left small finger. They sat me on the table and beat me with hammers on my knee joints. My head was covered with sticky tape, but as it stuck to my hair, my hair was cut with a knife".
Some interrogations resulted in death.
"They put me on the ground beside him (a dead body, author’s note) and started to shoot all around my head from a hand gun 7.62. Later they made me clean up the mess. They played “Russian Roulette” by firing from an empty magazine aiming at my head".
"When they brought me to the cellar I saw three dead male bodies. One was in a sitting position by the wall. Two others were young, one lying on his stomach, the other on his back. Their throats were cut and they were naked. The blood from their throats was dripping into the sewage drains in the floor".
"The guards there [Building of the Regional State Administration in Luhansk] were local drug addicts and criminals".
Staged and actual executions of detainees were organised to exert mental pressure.
"They beat him so severely in the adjoining room that he died before we managed to carry him to our cell at their order".
"They ordered us to strip off and threatened to rape us".
The detainees were also used for propaganda purposes and those who refused to cooperate were punished. The interrogations were filmed and the detainees were forced to speak to Russian television journalists in front of the camera. If they refused to speak as they were told, they were threatened and beaten.