A Ukrainian man said he was locked in a basement and tortured by Russian soldiers for 10 days for sending pictures of destroyed Russian tanks to Ukraine’s army.
The Associated Press reported that Alesha Babenko, 27, was arrested alongside his 14-year-old nephew Vitaliy Mysharskiy by Russian soldiers in September after they took and and sent the photos.
His was one of a series of chilling stories of Russia’s occupation of Kherson, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces last week.
Babenko said that he was thrown into a car when he was arrested in their village — Kyselivka, in the Kherson region — and kept in the basement for 10 days until he confessed on video.
“I thought I was going to die,” he told the AP.
He said he was interrogated, punched and kicked, blindfolded, and threatened with electric shocks.
The AP reported that Mysharskiy was not tortured after he was detained, but was told he could be forced to become a Russian citizen.
Russia has tried to make Ukrainians in some parts of the country Russian, issuing Russian passports and insisting on using its currency, the ruble. Russia continues to claim Kherson as its own territory after making a much-criticized declaration aimed at annexing it and other parts of Ukraine.
The two have since returned home, the AP reported, but Babenko said he was too afraid to go outside when he first got back as Russians still controlled the area.
Ukraine retook parts of the Kherson region over the past few weeks, and entered the city of Kherson last Friday, as Russian forces retreated.
This included Ukraine retaking Kyselivka last week, where residents were seen celebrating in the streets.
Evidence of torture, brutality, and murder by Russian troops has been seen in many of the areas that the army has left.
This includes mass graves in multiple areas, including more then 400 in the city of Izyum.
Intercepted phone calls of Russian troops have also purportedly shown them bragging about torturing and killing Ukrainians.
Other people in Kherson also said they were tortured.
Sky News spoke to a man who it reported was imprisoned in the city after he tried to stop soldiers stealing trucks from his factory.
“In the 20 cells, there were more than 180 prisoners. Every day people were tortured,” he said.
Sinéad Baker is a Senior News Reporter based in Business Insider’s London bureau, focusing on breaking news. Sinéad most often covers global and US politics. She has closely covered the 2020 presidential race and crises in international diplomacy. She has appeared on BBC News and The Guardian’s politics podcast to talk about developments around the world, and has been cited by Congressional hearings. Sinéad previously completed a master’s degree in investigative journalism at City, University of London, and has written for The Guardian, The Observer, and TheJournal.ie. Sinéad is the former editor of the multi-award-winning The University Times in Dublin.