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They call it ‘The Hole’: Ukrainians describe horrors of Kherson occupation



The two-storey station is known as ‘The Hole’ by residents of Kherson, Ukraine. Vitalii Serdiuk stated that he was lucky to have survived.

Retired medical equipment repairman, he said that he “hung onto life” as he described his experiences in Russian detention two blocks from their apartment in a small Soviet-era apartment.

No. No. 3. Energy Workers’ Street is the most well-known of the many places where people were interrogated and tortured during Russia’s nine-month occupation. Another prison was another.

Two residents living in apartments that overlook the courtyard of the police station claim they saw bodies covered with white sheets being removed from their buildings and placed in a garage, before being thrown in the garbage trucks.

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The Kremlin and Russia’s defense ministry did not respond to questions about Serdiuk or other journalists based in Kherson.

Moscow denied the claims of abuse against soldiers or civilians and accused Ukraine of staging such abuses in places like Bucha.

Tuesday (15 November) was reported by the UN human rights office that evidence had been found that both sides tortured their prisoners of war. This is classified as a war crime by the International Criminal Court. An official from the U.N. stated that Russian abuse was ” very systematic“.


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Evidence is mounting that Russian security forces are withdrawing from large areas in the east, north, and south.

Kherson was home to people who opposed Russia’s occupation. Serdiuk, a resident of Kherson, believed to have information about enemy soldiers’ positions and possible underground resistance fighters or associates.

Serdiuk claimed that Serdiuk was beaten on his legs, back and torso with a truncheon and shocked with electrodes through his scrotum. This was to respond to a Russian official who wanted information about Serdiuk’s son, a soldier in the Ukrainian army.

“I didn’t tell him anything.” The 65-year-old said, “I don’t know.” It was lit by one candle.

‘PURE SADISM’

The grim memories of Kherson’s occupation life were replaced by the joy and relief that Ukrainian soldiers brought to the capital, Friday 11 November.

Two days later, President Volodymyr Zeleskiy declared that more than 400 Russian crimes had been discovered by investigators. He also stated that they found the bodies of civilians and military personnel in Kherson regions which were freed from Russian occupation.

Oleh, 20 years old, said he witnessed five bodies being removed. He lives in an apartment building with the station. He said, “We could see hands hanging off sheets and believed these to be corpses.”

Svytlana (41), who lives on the same block as the station but works in a small store between the two buildings, recalls also seeing bodies taken by prisoners.

She stated that the people would bring dead people out to be thrown in a truck with the garbage. “We saw pure sadness.”

Unidentified officer claimed that 12 people were being held in small cages. Serdiuk confirmed this.

Neighbors reported hearing the screams from the station. They claimed they heard the Russians come out wearing balaclavas that covered their entire eyes.

Bestanik stated that they came in every day to the shop. They were too scary for me to talk to. They were too frightening for me.”

RESISTANCE FIGHTERS

Aliona Lapchuk stated that she fled Kherson in April with her oldest son after a terrifying ordeal she endured at the hands of Russian security personnel March 27th.

Lapchuk Vitaliy claims that he was an underground resistance fighter since March 2, when Russian troops took Kherson. When he didn’t return her calls, she became worried.

She claimed that three cars with the Russian Z sign appeared at her home shortly after she spoke. They beat Vitaliy to death.

If she tried to berate them, they threatened to rip out her teeth. She claimed that they stole their mobile phones and laptops, and then dug up weapons in the basement.

Before pulling him out, they brutally beat his husband in the basement.

Andriy, Lapchuk’s oldest son, was also present. The couple were then hooded and taken to Kherson’s Lutheran Street police station. Through the wall, she could hear her husband being interrogated. She and Andriy were both released later.

Kherson was left by Lapchuk, and she wrote to everyone she could to locate her husband.

She said that she was called by a pathologist June 9th and told to call her the next day. She knew immediately that Vitaliy was gone.

She claimed that her husband’s body was found floating in the river. A pathologist took photographs of his shoulder and found a birthmark.

Lapchuk claimed she had paid Vitaliy’s funeral and has yet visit the grave.

She believes that her husband was betrayed and was manipulated by someone she knows.

‘THE HOLE’

Ruslan, 52, is the owner of a beer shop right next to the station where Serdiuk was held. He claimed that daily Russian-made Ural trucks pulled up right in front of the grey front doors at the beginning of the occupation.

He stated that the detainees would then be thrown to the back, with their hands tied and their heads in bags.

He stated, “This place was named Yama (The Hole).

Serhii Poloako, 48, a trader who lives across the street, agreed to Ruslan.

He said that Russian national guard troops were present at the site for several months, but they were soon replaced with men driving vehicles embossed with the letter “V”, which is when the screams started.

He stated, “If there was a hell on Earth it would be there.”

He said that Russians had released the people being held at the station as preparations for their withdrawal, two weeks earlier.

Serdiuk believes he was lied about by an informant who claimed he was the father of a Ukrainian soldier.

Russian security agents placed a bag on the head of the man and handcuffed him. He was forced to bend at his waist and then they frog-marched him into a vehicle.

He was brought to the station, and placed in a cramped room that made it difficult for him to get up from his bed. For some days, prisoners were limited to eating one meal per day.

Then, he was hooded with his hands tied and taken to a cellar. He claimed that interrogation and torture took approximately 90 minutes.

Serdiuk claimed that his Russian interrogator knew all of his details. He stated that if Serdiuk didn’t cooperate, he would have his wife arrested and call his son.

Two days later, he was released without explanation. His wife found him close to the Bestanik shop. He was almost paralysed from the waist down.

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