Six Weeks of ‘Hell’: Inside Russia’s Brutal Ukraine Detentions

KHARKIV, Ukraine — It was a particularly dangerous time for a military-age man in Russian-occupied northern Ukraine, where Russian troops were losing ground before a ferocious Ukrainian counterattack this past spring. That was when soldiers from the occupying forces seized a young auto mechanic while he was walking in his home village with his wife and a neighbor, blindfolded him, bound his hands and shoved him into a bus.

It was the beginning of six weeks of “hell,” said Vasiliy, 37, who like most people interviewed for this article declined to give his surname for fear of reprisals. Shunted from one place of detention to another, he was beaten and repeatedly subjected to electrical shocks under interrogation, with little understanding of where he was or why he was being held.

He was far from the only one. Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians, mainly men, have gone missing in the five months of the war in Ukraine, detained by Russian troops or their proxies, held in basements,…

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This article was written by Carlotta Gall and originally published on