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Watchdogs: Civilians Detained, Tortured in Eastern Ukraine

FILE - Russian-backed rebels guard their position near Marinka in the suburbs of Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 4, 2015.

Arbitrary detentions, sometimes involving torture, are taking place in Eastern Ukraine both by Ukrainian authorities and Russian-backed separatists, according to a joint report released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Thursday.

At least nine cases were documented of Ukrainian authorities detaining civilians accused of coordinating with Russian-backed separatists, and nine more of separatist forces detaining civilians suspected were spying for the Ukrainian government.

But both human rights organizations stated they suspect the number of such detentions is much higher than they are currently able to document.

"Torture and secret detention are not historical — or unknown — practices in Ukraine. They are taking place right now, on both sides of the conflict," said Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International. "Those countries providing support - to whatever side - know this perfectly well. They must not continue to turn a blind-eye to these abhorrent abuses."

Secret detentions

Many cases constitute secret detentions because authorities refuse to acknowledge that certain victims are in their custody.

The report also indicated that these prisoners were being used as bargaining chips to release prisoners from the other side.

In the West, Russia is largely seen as having fomented and supported the unrest in eastern Ukraine as retribution for mass protests in Kyiv, which in February of 2014 toppled a pro-Moscow president. Russia denies charges of any official involvement.