Items are seen inside a cell at a preliminary detention centre which is believed to have been used by Russian forces to jail and torture civilians on November 16, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine.
Items are seen inside a cell at a preliminary detention centre which is believed to have been used by Russian forces to jail and torture civilians on November 16, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine. © Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Russian Commander Convicted for Ordering Detentions and Torture

Officer ordered children of local officials to be seized in order to pressure them to collaborate.

Tuesday, 2 July, 2024

A Russian commander has been sentenced in absentia to nice years in prison for ordering the detention and torture of civilians in the occupied Kherson region in May 2022. 

On June 18, the Bilyaivskii district court of the Odesa region sentenced Aleksey Oshchepkov, 47, who is from the Kirov region of the Russian Federation and lives in Kostroma. At the time of the offince, he was the commander of the 15th special unit Vyatich of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Russian Federation. At the beginning of May 2022, Oshchepkov, according to the investigation, was in the Russian-occupied territory of the Ivanovo community of the Henichesk district of the Kherson region. This district borders Russian-occupied Crimea, from where troops invaded the southern Kherson region on February 24, 2022.  

Henichesk district is still controlled by Russia, as well as the entire left bank part of Kherson region. 

According to the investigation, in early May 2022 during a house search, Oshchepkov ordered his subordinates to detain the 36-year-old son of the head of the Ivanivska local council. They put a plastic bag over the man's head, tied his hands with cable ties, beat him and forced him to disclose his father’s whereabouts. They then took him to the captured police station, from where he was released a few hours later on Oshchepkov’s orders. 

Then, in June 2022, Oshchepkov ordered the detention of the son of the head of the Ukrainian Starostav district, part of the Ivanivska community, in order to persuade his father to cooperate. The 20-year-old boy was only released when his father was forced to join the Russian military.  

The district head was also detained, beaten and tortured with electric current. 

Oshchepkov did not appear on the court summons required by Ukrainian legislation, so was tried in absentia and provided with a lawyer from the free legal aid centre. The absentee suspicion was reported to the Russian commander in February 2023, and the case was brought to court in April 2023. 

In court, the victims confirmed the prosecution's version of events. Oleksiy D, the son of the chairman of the Ivanivska local council, said that on May 7, 2022, during a search of the family house, the accused asked where his father was, and then gave the order to detain him. The victim's hands were tied, a bag was put on his head, he was thrown into a car and brought to the captured district police department. 

Oleksiy D was released when Russian soldiers realised that he had no useful intelligence. His father, Viktor D, testified in court that he had previously refused Oshchepkov’s orders, including to organise a parade on May 9, Victory Day. He subsequently left occupied territory to avoid arrest. 

Another victim, a district head identified as Serhiy D, told the court that the Russians had tried to force him to cooperate in April 2022, when they attended the village council. Oshchepkov, according to the victim, presented himself as a Russian commander.  The Russian military attended the village council several times, pointing their weapons at people, psychologically pressuring them and threatening them with consequences for them and their families if they did not cooperate. 

On June 22, 2022, a villager called the district head and said that he was wanted by the Russian military, warning him that his son Oleksandr had been detained. He was told to report to the local district police department. 

There, one of the Russian soldiers told him, "If you don't agree to cooperate, it will happen to everyone." 

Serhiy D was detained and his son was released. The district head was interrogated as to the whereabouts of the Ukrainian police force, former members of the anti-terrorist operation, and questioned about the distribution of weapons to self-defence units on the first day of the full-scale war. The victim replied that he did not know anything.  

He was then tortured with electric shocks for 20 minutes until he collapsed, after which a Russian soldiers struck him with the butt of a weapon. 

The man was released a few hours later when the Russian military realised that he had no useful information. According to the victim, they then asked if he would serve as a village head in  Russia. The man was given two weeks to think it over and released. 

The victim and his family then left for the Kyiv-controlled territory of Ukraine. His son's testimony in court coincided with his father's testimony. 

Among the evidence collected by the investigation were the protocols of Oshchepkov's photo identification and information about the accused's phone number, recorded in Henichesk district. 

The defence has 30 days to appeal the verdict. 

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