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‘They broke ribs, damaged kidneys’ Ukrainian women POWs recount the torture they endured during their time in Russian captivity

Source: Meduza

More than 400 Ukrainian women are currently being held in Russian captivity, according to Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Those who’ve been released recount inhumane conditions, sexual assault, and torture during their detention. In the new film Captivity, the independent television channel Dozhd (TV Rain) interviews some of these women about their experiences and speaks with the daughter of a woman who is still imprisoned. Meduza shares excerpts from their stories.

Lyudmyla Huseynova

Novoazovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine. Lyudmyla was taken on October 6, 2019, and spent three years and 13 days in captivity.

I couldn’t eat anything. Well, and there wasn’t anything to eat. For some reason, they thought I was on a hunger strike. He started hitting me across my back, saying, “What’s this, Uke — declared a hunger strike, have you?” For a week, they brought undercooked barley. It was rock hard and mixed with some kind of garbage, with dirt. Once, I even found mouse droppings in it.

After the first night, I woke up swollen and red all over. They started laughing, saying, “They attacked the new Uke — fresh blood.” It was bedbugs. Later, I saw that the whole bed was infested with them.

The smell of prison is the smell of waste, dirty bodies, dirty clothes, bad cigarettes. The smell of blood, because inmates often cut themselves. Blood can be everywhere.

TV Rain

Olena Yakupova

Kamianka-Dniprovska, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine. Olena was taken on October 6, 2022, and spent six months in captivity.

They took me to the police station and tortured me for several days. They sat me on an office chair, taped my legs, and tied my hands to the legs of the chair with tape. First, they hit me on the head with a plastic two-liter bottle, then they put a plastic bag over my head. It was clear that this was the beginning of the end.

From the very start, they forced me to learn the Russian anthem. They were always beating me. They could beat you half to death with batons. They broke ribs, damaged kidneys. The police chief told me to undress and sit on a stick, on a baton, if I wanted to live.

Olena Yakupova said that she was raped multiple times.

Daria Fedoruk

Kalmiuske, Donetsk region, Ukraine. Daria is the daughter of Olena Fedoruk, who was captured in 2017 and then sentenced to 11 years in prison in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

They were looking for my dad, but then they took my mom. My father was working abroad. They told us she was arrested on suspicion of espionage. She got out of the car, and they just grabbed her in the middle of the city, like she was a murderer or a terrorist. They put a bag over her head. In the cell next to hers, they were beating women. They came to her, and she said, “I’m elderly, I’ll sign what you want, just don’t torment me physically.”

Later, I got a letter saying my mother isn’t eligible for [a prisoner] exchange; she has to serve her full sentence.

Help Ukrainians

Help us support Ukrainians affected by Russia’s war A new fundraising campaign from Helpdesk, TV Rain, and Meduza

Help Ukrainians

Help us support Ukrainians affected by Russia’s war A new fundraising campaign from Helpdesk, TV Rain, and Meduza