The report, released by Human Right Watch, comes as the first trials over war crimes began at Kyiv on Wednesday, June 18, with a Russian soldier pleading guilty to the murder of a civilian. The cruelty imposed by Russian troops in Ukrainian territory is exposed in the report, which includes petrifying details on multiple cases of summary executions, enforced disappearances, confinements, and torture.
In one of the cases exposed, it is reported Russians held over 350 civilians, nearly the whole population of Yahidne village, in the basement of the village schoolhouse.
The people trapped there, including 70 children, stayed there without ventilation in extremely cramped and unsanitary conditions for 28 days.
Ten of the villagers died in that basement during their captivity.
One of the villagers trapped there told HRW: “It was damp and everyone was coughing.
“There was not enough air…. There were hundreds of people [and] nowhere to sleep, we were locked there for days at a time, used buckets as toilets.”
While another woman stated: “The room had no light. We could only sit on small children’s chairs or narrow benches.
“Our baby was sitting and sleeping on laps. The air was filled with dust and the smell of lime from the walls. …
“After a week everyone was coughing violently. Almost all the children had high fevers, spasms from coughing, and would throw up.”
A 63-year-old man with cancer, also locked in that basement, was not allowed to leave despite the pain he was experiencing.
According to the report, Russian soldiers said he could “hang himself” to alleviate the pain.
Russia denies targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes and accuses Ukraine of staging the atrocities, in order to smear its forces.
HRW said it had visited a total of 17 villages and small towns in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions and interviewed 65 people between April 10 and May 10, including former detainees, people who said they had survived torture, families of victims and other witnesses.
In another case included in the report, a 35-year-old resident of Hostomel, in the Kyiv region told HRW about the appalling tortures he suffered.
The man evacuated his mother from Hostomel, but stayed behind to feed his and his neighbours’ domestic animals.
He was taken into custody by a Russian soldier who tied his hands behind his back with a zip-tie, blindfolded him, and pushed him down into a basement.
There, Russian soldiers repeatedly questioned and electrocuted him for two days.
The man told HRW: “The zip-tie was so tight that my wrists were swollen.
“I had an open wound on my knee, and they would shock me right there…
“I was screaming from pain, telling them that I knew nothing, but they would go on shocking me.”
After two days, the soldiers put a black bag over his head and released him in the village, the report said.