Ukrainians who want to leave the cities under Russian occupation cannot do so without going through the frightening “filtering” process. Russian soldiers confiscate phones and check all social accounts, and if they find something they don’t like, they torture Ukrainian civilians who are beaten and even electrocuted before being deported to Russia, writes BBC.
Andrei watched anxiously as Russian soldiers connected his cell phone to their computer, apparently to access some files. The 28-year-old marketing officer from Ukraine was trying to leave Mariupol.
Andrei had erased all the data on his phone that could have been used against him by Russian soldiers, such as messages discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine or photos he took of places in the city devastated after weeks of non-stop bombing. .
“Are you or your brigade killing our people?”
However, because Mariupol had long been without internet access, Andrei was unable to delete some of his social media posts. He recalled the early days of the war when he distributed anti-Russian messages and speeches by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
I confused her, thought Andrei, who had already been caught in the crosshairs by Russian soldiers because he had a beard. From the first day he stood in line in the filter camp in Bezimenne, a small village east of Mariupol, one of the Russians accused him of being a fighter in the Azov regiment, a group of militants who would have extreme right-wing sympathies.
“Are you or your brigade killing our people?” the Russian soldier asked Andrei, who replied that he had never been in the army and that he had been hired as soon as he finished school. “They didn’t want to listen to me.”
As the soldiers checked his phone, they began to question him about his political views, asking him what he thought of the Ukrainian president. Andrei said Zelenski was “ok” and the Russian soldiers asked him to explain what he meant by that. Andrei explained that Zelenski is just a president like any other and that he is not very interested in politics.
“Well, then, you should say you’re not interested in politics,” the soldier warned. The Russians confiscated his phone and told him to wait outside, where Andrei’s mother, grandmother and aunt were waiting for him. His relatives had already received the document they needed to leave the camp.
Andrei, a “re-educated” marketing officer with his fists and feet next to his mother
A few minutes later, Andrei was sent to a tent where FSB officers were conducting further checks. Five members of the Russian security service, three of them with masks on their faces, showed Andrei a video he shared on Instagram with a speech by Zelenski on March 1.
In the same post, Andrei had written: “A president we can be proud of. Go home with your ship! ” One of the officers approached Andrei and said, “You told us you were politically neutral, but you support the Nazi government.” Then he hit him in the neck. “He started fighting,” Andrei recalled.
While being beaten by the Russians, Andrei began to wonder if it would be better to faint than to continue to resist the pain. When her mother tried to enter the tent, the officers stopped her and told her that Andrei’s “re-education” had begun and that she should not worry.
The fighting continued for two and a half hours, at the end of which Andrei was forced to shout “Glory to the Russian Army” while being filmed by the Russians. The last question the Russians asked him was whether he understood what mistakes he had made, to which Andrei answered “obviously, yes.”
When he was taken out of the tent, Russian officers brought in another man who had served in the Ukrainian army and was tattooed. “They immediately pushed him to the ground and started beating him,” Andrei said. “They didn’t even talk to him.”
Andrei and his family have now moved to Germany after being forced to move to Russia. He said the occupying forces were using these leaks to show their “absolute power”. Soldiers behaved as if it were “a kind of entertainment”, something to “satisfy their ego”.
Dmitro, a history teacher accused by the Russians of reading books about Hitler
After discovering that he had sent messages to a friend comparing the Russians to the fascists, Dmitro, a 34-year-old history teacher who was trying to escape from Mariupol at the end of March, was beaten by Russian soldiers controlling a checkpoint. control on the way out of the city. He was then taken to the Nikolski village police station, another filtering center.
“The highest-ranking officer punched me four times in the face,” Dmitro said. “It seemed to be part of the procedure.” His interrogators said that teachers like him were spreading pro-Ukrainian propaganda and accused him of reading books about Hitler when they found in his phone’s memory a picture of a book with the letter “H” written on it.
After four days of interrogation in a prison in Satrobeševe, a village occupied by separatists in Donetsk, he was released and was able to reach Ukrainian-controlled territory. The fate of the 24 Ukrainians with whom Dmitro shared the cell remains unknown.
Maxim, blacksmith locked in a cage and beaten. “It was very painful to breathe”
Maxim, a 48-year-old blacksmith, was forced to undress while officers from the Bezimenne camp even checked the seam of his clothes. He was asked if he was part of the Azov regiment and if he was a supporter of Nazism. Maxim told them no.
Asked why he wanted to leave Mariupol, Maxim replied: “In fact, you are on Ukrainian soil.” One of the Russian officers hit Maxim with the rifle butt on the chest. The blow sent him to the ground.
“I leaned my head on the ground, holding my ribs. I couldn’t get up, “said Maxim. “It was very painful to breathe.”
He was then taken to a “cage” with other detainees. Maxim noticed that one of the men, a bodybuilder, had a tattoo of the god Poseidon with a trident in his hand. Russian soldiers believed it was the coat of arms of Ukraine. “He tried to explain to them what it was, but they didn’t understand.”
The people in the cage received neither food nor water and had to defecate in a corner in front of everyone, according to Maxim. At one point, exhausted, he tried to fall asleep on the floor, but one of the officers hit him in the back and forced him to get up.
People were interrogated one by one, and when they returned to the cage, it was obvious that they had been beaten. Maxim saw a 40-year-old woman lying in pain after being hit in the stomach. A 50-year-old man had a bloody lip and large bruises on his neck. Maxim thinks the man was strangled.
None of the prisoners in the cage spoke to anyone out of fear. They believed that among them could be FSB officers disguised as prisoners.
After four or five hours, Maxim was released and allowed to leave Mariupol. When he arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled territory and went to the hospital, he found out that he had four broken ribs.
Vadim, a state official tortured with electric shocks. “It’s pure terror”
Vadim, a 43-year-old man working for a state-owned company, said he was tortured in Bezimenne in March. The separatist soldiers interrogated his wife and found that she had “liked” the Facebook page of the Ukrainian army and had donated money to them.
When Vadim tried to defend him, he was beaten by soldiers, and when they found out where he was working, they tortured him even worse.
“They used electricity. I’m almost dead. I fell and drowned with the seals that came out of my teeth “, said Vadim. He vomited and fainted. “It simply came to our notice then. When I regained consciousness, they told me to clean everything and continued to administer electric shocks to me. “
Vadim said that the torture ended only after the Russian officers intervened, who interrogated him once more and released him.
As he was leaving the building, Vadim saw a young woman who had been identified as a court clerk. “A plastic bag was put on her head and tied to her hands,” Vadim recalled. “Her mother was on her knees, begging her daughter not to be taken.”
Vadim was released, but on condition that he go to Russia. About 1.2 million Ukrainians, including thousands of Mariupol residents, have been forcibly deported to Russia since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to Ukrainian officials.
Vadim, like other deported Ukrainians, eventually escaped from Russia. He lost his visual acuity, and the doctors said that this was due to the beatings he had suffered.
“I feel better now, but the rehabilitation will take a long time.” Asked about the filter camps, Vadim said: “They separate families. People are made to disappear. It’s pure terror. “
Editor: Raul Nețoiu
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