The Kyiv Independent

December 14, 2022

Ukrainian authorities discovered a room that Russians used to detain and torture children during the occupation of Kherson, Dmytro Lubinets, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada, said on Dec. 14.

According to testimonies from locals, other torture victims in the facility knew that Ukrainian children had been kept there by Russian security services, who had called the room “the children’s cell.”

The children were given little water and almost no food, Lubinets said. According to locals’ testimonies, the children were subject to psychological abuse at the hands of their Russian captors, who told them that their parents had abandoned them and that they would never return home.

One 14-year-old boy was arrested and later tortured just for taking a picture of broken Russian equipment, Lubinets said.

“We recorded the torture of children for the first time,” said Lubinets. “I thought that the bottom could not be worse after Bucha, Irpin… but we really reached the bottom in Kherson.”

Dozens of torture chambers have been discovered across the liberated areas in the Kherson, Kharkiv, and Donetsk oblasts. Local prosecutors say they have found four locations so far in Kherson where Ukrainians were tortured.

While an estimated third of Ukrainian children have fled their homes due to Russia’s war, there are still many remaining in Russian-occupied territories or areas where heavy fighting continues. They get kidnapped, forcibly deported, wounded, and killed.

One 16-year-old Ukrainian interviewed by the Kyiv Independent in August, who underwent Russian captivity in occupied Melitopol, said he was forced to follow orders, such as cleaning the “torture room” awash with victims’ blood.

Russia’s daily shellings and missile strikes have indiscriminately killed civilians of all ages, including infants.

Prosecutors say that at least 443 children have been killed and more than 855 wounded since Feb. 24. But the real figures are expected to be higher since they don’t include the number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha, the once-besieged cities in eastern Donetsk Oblast that were heavily bombarded and are now under Russian occupation.

Moscow has also been illegally deporting Ukrainian children from occupied territories to Russia. Daria Herasymchuk, Ukraine’s presidential advisor for children’s rights and rehabilitation, reported on Dec. 9 that Russia has already illegally deported more than 13,000 Ukrainian children, but underscored that “this, unfortunately, is not the final figure.”

“We still have to learn about at least tens of thousands of Ukrainian children who were stolen by the Russian authorities,” she said.

Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog, said on Nov. 11 that Russia’s actions of forced displacement and deportation are “reprehensible and constitute a war crime.”

Russian officials have outright admitted kidnapping Ukrainian children and framed the illegal act as Moscow’s “generous” move to help them amid its war against Ukraine.