Hundreds of Ukrainians were detained and forcibly disappeared in Kherson after Russia seized the province, in evidence of a planned campaign, a Yale University group researching war crimes said on Friday.
The Conflict Observatory, a research group under Yale University’s School of Public Health, said they documented 226 extrajudicial detentions and forced disappearances in Kherson. Around a quarter of that number were allegedly subjected to torture and four died in custody.
Most of the detentions and disappearances were carried out by the Russian military and FSB security agency, and half of those seized “do not appear to have been released,” the Conflict Observatory said in a report.
It said men of military age, including civil servants, civil society leaders, teachers, law enforcement and journalists made up a large part of those detained and disappeared.
“These findings demonstrate a range of alarming allegations about treatment of detainees, including allegations of deaths in custody; the widespread use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, pillage from detainees (and) sexual and gender-based violence,” the report said.
The pattern of those detained shows the campaign was “premeditated,” it added.
The report cited sources saying that after seizing Kherson in March, the Russians arrived with lists of names and license plate numbers, targeting people they thought might resist their presence.
The report added that Crimean Tatars were also targeted and many accused of belonging to what Russia labels a Tatar “terrorist” group.
The Conflict Observatory said that while some of those detained were released, “many others remain in detention or are missing, their fates unknown to their families,” since Russian forces withdrew from Kherson city on November 11.
“This report makes clear that Russia’s forces must be held accountable for the crimes they allegedly committed in Kherson,” the report said.
Part of Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab, the Conflict Observatory works with other private research firms and has US government backing.