Beaten, strangled, abducted – Ukrainians share tales of abuse

Mariupol refugees speak with president Zelensky

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Ukrainians have told of the harrowing abuse they have suffered at the hands of brutal soldiers trying to force them to relocate to Russia. The stories were collected together by Ukraine PR Army, a non-profit organisation of Ukrainian communication experts dedicated to highlighting the brutal reality of Putin’s war.

Since the Russian President ordered his invasion on February 24, between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians have been forcibly relocated to Russia, according to United Nations figures.

Ukrainian authorities have so identified roughly 7,000 out of hundreds of thousands of children taken there, including at least 1,000 from the city of Mariupol illegally transferred to Russian families.

In addition, more than 20 filtration camps were found in the occupied territory of Ukraine.

Illia, 19, his mother, and his 10-year-old brother were among those forcibly taken to the Russian Federation by bus from the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Describing the treatment meted out by Russian soldiers, he explained: “In general, this is horror. They bully people there, shout at them, and threaten them because, in their opinion, whoever has a machine gun is stronger.

“They don’t care that they took thousands of lives and broke hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. It’s just animals.

“There were also real cases when people were taken somewhere, having found something in their phone, maybe to a ‘prison’, maybe somewhere else, I don’t know.

“Probably in front of them there, I experienced the most severe stress for the entire period. It was terrible. They are not human. Even more stressful when you had to run under the shots.”

The family were subsequently sent to a filtration camp and sent for Russia, where they remained for five days before managing to leave the country for Europe, with Illia’s younger brother needing to see a psychotherapist as a result of the stress he has experienced.

Another Ukrainian, Vlad, was taken to the Russian city of Taganrog from Mariupol at the start of March 2022, after all his documents and money were by a fire which engulfed the apartment where he lived as a result of Russian shelling.

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Vlad’s mother and grandmother were taken to another place, and he still does not know what happened to them.

Eventually, he and others managed to cross the border into Estonia in April.

PR Army said: “Vlad went through hell in several filtration camps, suffering hunger, cold, dehydration and ongoing fear.

“He was taking notes on his phone and was lucky enough to keep it away from Russians; otherwise, who knows what would have happened. Vlad shares those notes with us; his emotions are still very vibrant.”

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Tigran, 16, was beaten by Russian soldiers on September 30 and taken from the home where he lived with his grandmother.

PR Army said: “The Russians broke into the house through the back door, beat and strangled the child in front of the grandmother.

“While in custody, the boy taught occupiers and traitors a history lesson. The Russian military kept him among other teenagers and men in solitary captivity and forbade anyone from seeing him in person.

“Although the boy has been given back to his grandma, they are not allowed to leave the occupied territories.”

Tigran is still being watched, and he lives “in constant anxiety”, PR Army explained.

Evgeny and his family were forced to leave Mariupol by soldiers who colder them Chechen units were preparing for a “severe sweep” of the city, and given half an hour to pack.

They were taken to the village of Bezimenne, where Evgeny was taken to a filtration camp and his three children to the so-called House of Culture.

Evgeny spent a total of 45 days in the prison camp, during which time one of his daughters, Sviatoslava, was told he might not return for as long as seven years.

When he was finally freed, he discovered his children had been transferred to Donetsk Children’s Social Centre, where some had come directly from Mariupol, some from orphanages, some from the same hospital he and his sister had previously been kept.

Fortunately Matvii, his son, managed to get a phone card and managed to speak to his father.

Evgeny said: “Matvii called me and almost shouted, ‘Dad, you have five days to come and pick us up, or we will be adopted!’

Hastily travelling to Russia, Evgeny managed to reclaim the pair of them, and in June 22, the family arrived by bus in the Latvian capital, Riga, where they have lived ever since.

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