A woman carries food from a charity kitchen after her home was heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack, on October 28, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
A woman carries food from a charity kitchen after her home was heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack, on October 28, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. © Carl Court/Getty Images

Russian Soldiers to Be Tried for Torture During Ongoing Occupation

The accused men are believed to still be stationed in the Zaporizhzhia region where the alleged abuses took place.

Tuesday, 2 May, 2023

Two Russian servicemen are to face trial for the detention and torture of civilians in the occupied town of Vasylivka - where the suspects reportedly still reside.

On April 24, the Zavodskyi District Court in Zaporizhzhia held a preparatory hearing to try Azamat Khasbulatov and Said Huseinov for violating the laws and customs of war committed by a group of persons based on a prior conspiracy (Part 1 of Article 438 and Part 2 of Article 28 of the criminal code). 

In late December 2022, the Zaporizhzhia branch of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported the suspicion in absentia to the two servicemen. On March 10, the prosecutor petitioned the Zavodskyi district court to conduct a special trial against the accused. The defence lawyer, provided via the centre of free legal aid, did not object. Five victims filed applications to hold a preparatory court session in their absence.

Vasylivka, a town in the Zaporizhzhia region with a pre-war population of 13,000, has been under Russian occupation since March 2022. It lies about 70 kilometres from Melitopol.

The two suspects are reportedly still in Vasylivka and have been notified of the criminal case opened against them.

Due to its location, in summer 2022 Vasylivka became the only transit point for residents of the occupied settlements of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions to Kyiv-controlled territory.  In July 2022, thousands of people and cars crowded the checkpoints by the town trying to leave for the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia. About ten deaths are known to have taken place as people waited in the queue. In December, the Russians closed the Vasylivka checkpoint.

Khasbulatov, 31, and Huseynov, 33, both from Russia’s north Caucasian republic of Dagestan, serve in the regional capital Makhachkala as part of the Special Purpose Mobile unit (OMON) of Russia’s National Guard (Rosgvardiya).

Investigators found that in late March 2022 Khasbulatov, call sign 105, was in Vasylivka as deputy military commandant of the occupation administration; Huseynov, call sign 320, was his assistant. 

The accused, in prior conspiracy with unidentified Russian military and Ukrainian citizens who contributed to the occupation, intimidated and kidnapped local civilians, using physical violence against them, as they looked for supporters of Ukraine. 

On March 26, 2022, Huseynov and unidentified accomplices broke into the house of the head of Verkhnia Krynytsia, a settlement in Vasylivka district. They kidnapped the 47-year-old man and took him to Vasylivka, where they held him in the building of the occupied district police department until March 31. 

He was tortured with electric shocks, sharp metal objects were inserted under his nails and chemical reagents were poured onto his skin. The Russian military wanted the abducted man to cooperate and release information about village residents who supported Ukraine.

On the same day, Huseynov and his accomplices kidnapped three other men from the Verkhnia Krynytsia. There were also taken to the police station where they were interrogated and tortured for four days. The Russians connected electric wires to their legs, ears and genitals and shocked them, beat them with a club, branded body parts and threatened to kill close relatives if the men did not cooperate. 

According to investigators, on April 2, 2022, an unidentified Russian soldier acting on Khasbulatov’s instructions and detained a 60-year-old man while on duty at the checkpoint in Vasylivka. Together with accomplices, the soldier, with the call sign 33, stopped the car that the man was driving from the occupied city of Tokmak to Zaporizhzhia. They took the man to the district police department, where they threatened to kill him and demanded information about residents of Vasylivka district.

The court’s registry states that Khasbulatov and Huseynov were declared internationally wanted. At the stage of the pre-trial investigation, notices of suspicion and subpoenas for summons to the SBU were sent to them via Telegram and e-mail. Documents were also published on the official website of the Prosecutor General's Office and in the Government Courier newspaper. They did not appear when summoned and in January 2023 the court gave permission for a special pre-trial investigation.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in February 2023 Russian forces increased their pressure on the civilian population in the occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. A torture chamber has been reportedly set up in Vasylivka where pro-Ukrainian citizens are held and interrogated.

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