10:36 03 Mar 2023

russia pre-planned Kherson torture centers, international lawyers say

Evidence collected from Kherson in southern Ukraine shows russian torture centers were not "randomly" set by the occupiers.

Instead, they were planned and directly financed by the russian state, a team of Ukrainian and international lawyers headed by a UK barrister state.

The mass torture chambers, financed by the russian state, are not random but rather part of a carefully thought-out and financed blueprint with a clear objective to eliminate Ukrainian national and cultural identity," the British barrister Wayne Jordash, who is leading the team, says.

The evidence collected by Ukrainian prosecutors and analyzed by the Mobile Justice Team includes putin's plans to establish, manage and finance the 20 torture centers in Kherson by the occupying forces.

More than 1,000 survivors have submitted evidence, and more than 400 people have vanished from Kherson, the lawyers say.

The centers were run by the russian security services, the fsb, as well as the russian prison service and local collaborators. They were meant to subjugate, re-educate or kill Ukrainian civic leaders and ordinary dissenters.

The prisoners included anyone who had a connection to the Ukrainian state or Ukrainian civil society, such as activists, journalists, civil servants, and teachers. Other victims said they were stopped randomly on the street and then detained for allegedly having "pro-Ukrainian" material on their phones.

It is unclear whether the more than 400 people who have disappeared were killed during the occupation or have been taken to Russia.

"putin's plan is to occupy Ukraine, subjugate the Ukrainian population to russian rule and destroy Ukrainian identity. This plan is becoming clearer as the evidence of war crimes proliferates and as the progress of our investigation," Jordash said.

He set up the Mobile Justice Team in May to help the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office investigate and prosecute alleged russian war criminals. It is funded by the UK Foreign Office, the EU, and the US state department and aims to fill a void in Ukraine's national prosecution service through training and mentorship. Before the full-scale war, Ukraine had 8,000 prosecutors, but only the war crimes department and two units had expertise in investigating war crimes.

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