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Putin the Monster: Russia Put Ukrainian Soldiers in ‘Open-Air’ Cages

War in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The war in Ukraine is going badly for Russia across all fronts now, with more and more western weapons coming into the battlezone. And now it seems that Moscow is resorting to some very extreme measures and methods of torture to make Ukraine pay a terrible price. 

Mariupol Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen fire with a mortar at a position, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, at an unknown location in Kharkiv region, Ukraine May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

Ukrainians in newly recaptured parts of the country have alleged that Russian soldiers put them through horrors such as open-air cages and mock executions, The New York Times reported.

Following the retreat of President Vladimir Putin’s forces in eastern Ukraine, stories of widespread abuses have filtered through. Witnesses told the NYT of multiple instances of torture, rape, mutilation and arbitrary imprisonment.

A UN investigation into human right abuses released on Tuesday found Russia responsible for the “vast majority” of human-rights violations in the war.

One police official told the NYT that the full toll of abuse may eclipse what was uncovered in Bucha — the city in the Kyiv region where, in March, more than 400 people were massacred.

In Kupiansk, near the key city of Izium which Ukraine’s forces retook in early September, one unnamed witness told the NYT that prisoners were held in open-air cages.

A 30-year-old, who gave his name only as Serhii, told the paper that Russian soldiers put him and two others through a mock execution before holding them prisoner for two weeks. Serhii was reported as living in Balakliya,  a town south of Kharkiv city that was recaptured on September 8.

Serhii described being out with his brother and a friend when Russian soldiers detained them, the paper reported. The soldiers stripped them, beat them and subjected them to interrogation to try to extract information on the positions of Russian forces, he told the paper.

“They were asking questions that we did not have the answers to,” he said.

Serhii said they were made to dig a trench in the woods where the mock execution took place.  He told the paper that he believed his brother and friend were dead.

The three were held in a basement and released two weeks later, the paper reported him as saying.

There are multiple reports of brutal interrogations in Balakliya, according to a September 13 Facebook post by Serhii Bolvinov, the Kharkhiv region’s police deputy.

He alleged that electric shocks were routinely used in interrogations — a claim that was described in disturbing detail by sources who spoke to the BBC the same day.

Mia Jankowicz is a news reporter at Insider’s London office, where this first appeared. She previously covered Brexit for The New European and has contributed stories to The Guardian, The New Statesman,, and, as well as several local newspapers. A longtime culture writer, she has published reviews, opinion, and features to a wide range of art publications, with a focus on art from both the UK and the Middle East. She won the Frieze Writers’ Prize in 2007.

Written By

Mia Jankowicz is a news reporter at Insider's London office.