Ukrainian investigators in an area recaptured from Russian troops have uncovered a cell where children were detained and mistreated, a senior Ukrainian human rights advocate said on Wednesday.
Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, said the cell was in one of four torture centers operated by Russian troops in Kherson - a city in southern Ukraine abandoned by pro-Moscow forces last month.
Russia denies targeting civilians in the war and rejects allegations it has mistreated civilians.
Lubinets, who has presented a series of reports on alleged torture, said conditions were worse than sites of confinement investigated in other recaptured areas.
“We found 10 torture chambers in Kherson region, four in the city of Kherson,” he told journalists at a briefing. “In one of the torture chambers we found a separate room, a cell where children were kept ... even the occupiers called it that, a children's cell.”
The cell differed from adjacent rooms only in that occupying forces placed thin mats on the floor, he said.
“We have documented that the children were not provided with water, were given water every other day. They were practically not given food,” Lubinets said.
“They used psychological pressure. They told them their parents had abandoned them and would not return.”
One 14-year-old boy was detained, he said, for taking pictures of damaged Russian military equipment.
“These were children who, in the eyes of the invaders, were resisting,” Lubinets said.
Lubinets did not provide evidence of his assertions. Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the veracity of his account.
Lubinets also said some 12,000 Ukrainian children had been taken to Russia since the invasion began in February, including 8,600 taken by force.
Western officials have spoken of mass deportations of Ukrainians forced to pass through “filtration” points. The US ambassador to the United Nations in September put the figure of deportations at between 900,000 and 1.6 million.
Russia denies it has staged mass deportations to Russia, including of children.