Russian torture chambers revealed in the Ukrainian city of Balaklia

Balaklia, Eastern Ukraine – “Our Father who is in Heaven,” the words of the Lord’s Prayer begin in the side of a wall in a turning police station torture chamber In the recently liberated city of Balaklia. The floors of the cells were still stained with blood, and the smell of human excrement and rotting food was overwhelming. At the top is a series of dents marking the passing of days, and next to them is a simple cross.

For six months, this police station, as with many others in the area, was a center of brutality Russian occupation regime Based on violence and fear. Ukrainian officials They claim to have found at least ten interrogation centers scattered throughout the liberated territories.

The Lord’s Prayer engraved in the cells of the police department transformed the torture room in Balaklia.

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One of the former detainees, Artyom – who did not want to be named for fear of returning Russians – told The Daily Beast that he was brought in for questioning because he had a Ukrainian flag on the wall of his home. “They asked me why I had the Ukrainian flag. I told them, ‘Because this is Ukraine! Should I have carried the Japanese flag instead? “

The Ukrainians claim that for several weeks they held dozens of men and women in small, dingy cells, demanding answers about who was in the army, and likely to give the Ukrainian military information about Russian locations in the area. “We didn’t want to leave our homes, because any time you left the street, they would check your phone. If they found you wrote something rude about the Russian people, or the Russian army, that was the only excuse they needed to arrest you,” Artyom said. They are tortured with electricity, though he says it was never used on him.

Gas masks used in torture at Izium Police Station.

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The worst punishments were allegedly intended for prisoners of war from the Ukrainian army. “They arrested and tortured every single member of the service they could find,” said Oleksandr, a Ukrainian police investigator while showing The Daily Beast about another room of terror in a police station in the nearby city of Izyum. “I don’t know a single Ukrainian soldier who was arrested but not tortured.”

The entrance to the Izium police station is used as a torture chamber.

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Russian soldiers looted the destroyed rooms of the Balaklia police station.

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At the precinct, there were electric wires used to shock detainees. There were gas masks modified so that the wearer would suffocate. On the floor were blood-stained ropes that were used to strangle detainees, as well as wooden sticks and police batons that were used to beat them. Police have so far identified 20 people who were being held there, but noted that this was their first day on the job, and they expected more to be found quickly. The police stations themselves were looted, their floors covered with papers, file cabinets abandoned, and shards of broken window glass. A sandbag or piece of barbed wire is occasionally piled on the walls.

Russia captured these small towns in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine after heavy fighting in March, after its initial failure to capture the capital Kharkiv in the early days of the war. The city of Izyum in particular was a major source of Russian logistics for their push into the northern part of the Donbass region, which was Putin’s main objective after he failed to capture Kyiv. Now, his army in the east seemed to be collapsing. In the past two weeks, Ukrainian forces liberated about 8,500 square kilometers of its territory, defeating Russian forces in the region.

The roads in the area are filled with military vehicles including tanks and armored personnel carriers, all bearing the infamous Z-mark. But unlike the vehicles seen in the Kyiv region, all with burnt husks, many of these vehicles appear to have been abandoned in perfect working order.

A destroyed Russian armored vehicle on the Izium Road.

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Remnants of a Russian anti-aircraft gun on the Izyum Road.

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One joke spread on Ukrainian social media is that Russia has quickly overtaken the United States to become the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine. It is these continuing defeats that have forced Putin to begin what he calls a “partial mobilization” of troops in the Russian reserves, leading to the largest anti-war protests in Russia since the invasion began in February.

Throughout much of the region, life is beginning to return to normal, although heavy fighting continues in Kobyansk, the easternmost city on the Oskil River, the region’s new frontline. It now appears that Ukrainian forces are ready to retake large parts of the Luhansk region, which Russia has expended massive amounts of blood and riches to capture over the summer.

Many have died, please help their relatives to take some solace.

Outside, on the main square of Izyum, the residents began to emerge from their six-month nightmare. A small group of children were playing hopscotch by the rose garden, while their parents were reclining on benches beside them. The idyllic landscape is shattered by the sight of the buildings lining the square, all destroyed by the bombing.

Ukrainian authorities believe that more than 80 percent of buildings in Izyum were damaged during the fighting. Hundreds of residents were found buried in a mass grave outside the city limits, most believed to have died from artillery shelling or air strikes during the Russian offensive on the city in March.

“Civilians line up to receive humanitarian aid in Isium”.

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A local Christian charity of help had fifty or so people lined up in the plaza when The Daily Beast arrived this week.

The pantry was simple fare: a bottle of Pepsi, a few cans of luncheon meat and cans of dry pasta each. With most shops and supermarkets damaged or destroyed, and no electricity across the city, many residents depend on it to survive.

But before they distributed the rulings, a priest was called to lead the congregation in prayer. “Our Father who art in Heaven,” began as he led the crowd in recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in a chilling echo of the words scratched in the cell wall. He goes on to give a short sermon to the long line of tough-looking Ukrainian civilians. “Thank you, God, for having mercy on these people. Many have died, please help their relatives get some solace.”

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