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Ukrainian POWs in Russian Detention Subject to Abuse, UN Reports

FILE - Service members of Ukrainian forces who have surrendered after weeks holed up at Azovstal steel works are seen inside a bus, which arrived under escort of the pro-Russian military, at a detention facility in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, May 17, 2022.

The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine says prisoners of war held in detention by the Russian Federation's armed forces or by affiliated armed groups have been subject to torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment.

The mission has documented a range of violations against prisoners of war, some of which it says could rise to the level of war crimes.

Much of the information in the U.N. update was gathered from interviews with POWs who were released from detention. The Russian Federation did not provide the U.N. monitors access to POWs held in its territory or in territory under its occupation in Ukraine.

Speaking from Odesa, mission head Matilda Bogner said the monitors have documented many cases of torture. She said witnesses recounted disturbing stories of prisoners of war taken to specific facilities, where they were exposed to abusive treatment during a so-called welcoming process.

"This involves severe beatings of the new detainees upon their arrival," she said. "There are situations, for example, where the guards of the facility will stand in two rows and the new detainees are set to run or walk between those rows of guards and are beaten along the way as they enter the facility."

Bogner said certain detainees, particularly those who do not submit to prison rules or are known for their pro-Ukrainian positions, are targeted and subjected to beatings and other forms of ill treatment.

The mission also has documented the inadequate conditions under which the POWs are held.

"They are poor conditions with often the lack of adequate food, a lack of clean drinking water, a lack of proper sanitation," Bogner said. "And this then raises further concerns regarding the health situation of those detainees. … There are serious allegations of diseases such as tuberculosis."

The U.N. monitors also assessed conditions in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. They report conditions there have significantly deteriorated and become more repressive, with people being deprived of fundamental freedoms.

They say perceived critics of the Russian occupiers are subject to torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and other violations of their human rights.