Russian soldiers who refuse to participate in Ukraine war ‘are being held in torture pits’

  • Contracted troops were told they could go on leave or resign after three months
  • But those who refuse to fight are now being hauled off to detention centres
  • Superiors allegedly send them to Bryanka in occupied Luhansk to be tortured
  • Comes as Human Rights Watch has received detailed descriptions of torture and illegal detention of Ukrainian citizens in occupied southern Ukraine 

Russian soldiers who refuse to fight on the front lines in Ukraine are allegedly being forced back into battle on threat of execution, or rounded up and held in ‘torture pits’, basements and garages in the Luhansk region.

Contracted troops who signed up to go into battle were reportedly told they would be sent on three-month tours of duty, after which they could opt to take leave or resign altogether.

But the father of one Russian soldier has claimed that when the contractors state their intention to leave or hand in resignation letters to their superiors, they are detained and shipped off to a makeshift detention centre in Bryanka in occupied Ukraine. 

There they are either bullied back to rejoin the frontlines, or split up into small groups and thrown into cramped spaces where they endure horrendous conditions and various forms of torture.

‘They are keeping people there because they wanted to leave, refused to fight,’ the man told The Insider.

‘There are held in pits, tortured and things like that. That’s what people who have come from there say,’ he added, alleging the security of such camps is presided over by mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Group – also known as Putin’s private army.

But the man, who claimed his son has been held in Bryanka for more than a month, insisted: ‘It’s better to give your soul to God, than to go back [to the frontline]. They no longer want to be up to their ears in the blood of their friends and comrades.’ 

It comes as Human Rights Watch announced it had discovered evidence that Russian forces had tortured, illegally detained and ‘forcibly disappeared’ dozens of Ukrainian citizens living in the occupied southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. 

Russian troops who refuse to fight are allegedly being shipped off to detention centres in Bryanka in Luhansk (pictured)

Much of the Luhansk region has been devastated by the conflict but is now under complete Russian control

The father of one detained Russian soldier alleged the security of such camps is presided over by mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Group – also known as Putin’s private army

Wagner Group mercenaries are seen in Popasna, the Severodonetsk district of the Luhansk Oblast, eastern Ukraine

The existence of the torture camps and detention centres in Bryanka as described by the Russian soldier’s father have not been verified, but there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from Russian defectors who gave themselves up suggesting that deserters are treated with extreme contempt. 

One of Putin’s men who surrendered to the Ukrainian defenders early in the war told his captors of the existence of a ‘death squad’ of Russian operators who were being sent to threaten or kill fellow countrymen who lay down their arms. 

In an interview filmed by the Ukrainian Security Service in March, the defector said: ‘As we came in we realised the situation, that we’re not going into a peacekeeping mission, but to fight. 

‘There are echelons in the back, they kill deserters… it seems, with people I’ve spoken to, we’re all military, they told them the same thing.

‘There really is a squad that kills people who try to run home.’ 

But despite the risk of ending up in a torture camp or being executed, scores of Russian troops have resigned from their duties en-masse, having learned the truth about the conflict they were tasked with instigating. 

One unit from the 113th rifle regiment of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in June posted a video via Telegram messaging app, announcing they could no longer fight due to a complete lack of equipment and rampant disease and injury, but that their superiors ‘interpreted our complaints as sabotage’.

A captured Russian soldier has claimed that Putin’s military forces have a special squad set up for killing deserters who don’t want to take part in the invasion of Ukraine

A company commander from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic army has complained that his men are being sent to the frontlines without food, kit or medicine

He says men with chronic medical conditions have been sent into the thick of the fighting and that any complaints are treated as ‘sabotage’

In the footage, the commander can be heard saying: ‘Our company overcame cold and hunger and for a considerable period we did so without material support, medical supplies or food.

‘The mobilisation of our unit took place without any medical examinations, and there are those among our unit who in accordance with the laws of the Donetsk People’s Republic should not be mobilised. 

‘Many questions arise that are ignored by command… Show respect for your officers – what is there to be gained from sending your soldiers to die?’

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch today declared they had interviewed scores of Ukrainian citizens and POWs detained by Putin’s troops in the occupied southern regions of Ukraine and had received detailed accounts of barbaric treatment they endured. 

‘Russian forces have turned occupied areas of southern Ukraine into an abyss of fear and wild lawlessness,’ said senior researcher Yulia Gorbunova. 

‘Torture, inhumane treatment, as well as arbitrary detention and unlawful confinement of civilians, are among the war crimes we have documented.’

A press release on the organisation’s website stated  its members had interviewed 71 people from Kherson, Melitopol, Berdyansk, Skadovsk and 10 other cities and towns in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. 

They described 42 cases in which Russian occupation forces either forcibly disappeared civilians or otherwise held them arbitrarily, and many instances in which they were beaten, tortured and hospitalised with severe injuries.  

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