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Ukraine updates: Alleged 'torture chambers' found in Kherson

Published November 17, 2022last updated November 17, 2022

A Ukrainian official reported that Kherson had been the site of torture at a "horrific" scale. Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes hit gas and electrical infrastructure across Ukraine. DW has the latest.

A view of damage after Russian retreat from Kherson
A view of damage after Russian retreat from KhersonImage: Metin Aktas/AA/picture alliance

A Ukrainian ombudsman described the scale of torture in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson as being "horrific."

Dmytro Lubynets, Ukrainian parliament commissioner for human rights, said he had "not seen a scale like it before," adding that the "scale [of abuse] is just horrific."

Residents in region's capital lived under Russian occupation for eight months before Russian troops announced they were retreating a little more than a week ago.

Ukrainian forces have since taken control of Kherson city and several towns and villages in the region.

Lubynets said that Ukrainian authorities had found "torture chambers" in Kherson.

The rights official said that those detained in the facilities were electrocuted and beaten with metal pipes. "After that they were killed," he added.

Lubynets said that he spoke with a man who had been kept in one of the alleged torture sites for 45 days, where he witnessed "dozens of people being tortured."

The official said that authorities expected to find more "torture chambers," adding that they formed a "system" built by Russian forces.

Zelenskyy hails liberation of Kherson during visit

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, November 17:

Russia strikes infrastructure and residential areas across Ukraine

Russia launched airstrikes across Ukraine on Thursday, hitting key infrastructure as well as residential areas.

Ukrainian officials said at least four people had been killed and 11 others wounded in drone and missile strikes around the country.

"They are shelling our gas production and our enterprises in Dnipro," Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said at an economic forum.

In Kyiv, officials said two cruise missiles had been shot down. Officials in the Black Sea port of Odesa also reported airstrikes.

Ukrainian energy company Ukrenergo warned on Thursday of more power outages needed to preserve the electricity grid heading into winter.

These power outages are "necessary measures to maintain the stability of the energy system after the sixth targeted missile attack" on infrastructure, the company said in a statement.

The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

"Millions are facing constant power cuts, and the lack of energy is also affecting water pumping," it said in a statement. 

Russia launches new wave of missile strikes

Peace not possible until Russia withdraws troops, says EU foreign policy chief

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that peace in Ukraine was not going to be possible until Russia withdrew its troops.

Borrell told Reuters news agency that "Russia is not ready to withdraw and as far as it doesn't withdraw, peace will not be possible."

"It is Russia who has to make peace possible, the aggressor has to withdraw if he wants a sustainable peace," he added.

Zelenskyy: MH17 verdict 'important,' calls for punishment for 'all Russian atrocities'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday said the verdict in the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was "important," adding that those who "ordered it must also end up in the dock."

Zelenskyy also called for punishment for "all Russian atrocities."

A Dutch court on Thursday found three men guilty of murder for taking part in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014, killing all 298 people on board. 

The court said the aircraft crashed after being shot down over eastern Ukraine by a Russian-made missile, confirming the findings by international investigators.

Dutch court convicts 3 over Malaysia Airlines MH17 downing

Russia 'ultimately' reponsible for Poland missile strike: US 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia was ultimately reponsible for the blast in Poland on Tuesday.

Blinken told repoters at an Asia-Pacific summit in Bangkok that he had spoken again with his Ukrainian counterpart on the probe and added: "Whatever its final conclusion, we already know the party ultimately responsible for this tragic incident — Russia."

Ukraine has called for a joint investigation into the blast, while Poland and the US have said that initial investigation suggested that the explosion was probably caused by shooting down of a Russian missile.  

Zelenskyy: 'I don't know what happened' in Poland blast

Ukrainian President Volydymyr Zelenskyy said "I don't know what happened" regarding the missile that landed in Poland on Tuesday, killing two people.

In the aftermath of the incident, Ukrainian officials pointed blame at Russia, which Zelenskyy maintained on Thursday.

However, preliminary findings from NATO suggest the rocket may have been from a Ukrainian air defense system.

"We don't know 100%, I think the world also doesn't know 100% what happened in this situation," Zelenskyy said in a digital address to the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.

"But I'm sure that this is a Russian missile and I'm sure that we were launching the air defense missiles. But we can't say specifically that this was the air defense of Ukraine and we are grateful for not being blamed because we are fighting against Russian missiles in our territory."

The Ukrainian president added: "We have to be fair and honest until the investigation is over."

Missile that hit Poland likely came from Ukraine air defense

Ukrainian air force spokesman, Yuriy Ignat, told DW that Kyiv was waiting for a "thorough investigation" to conclude the origins of the missile that fell on Polish territory on Tuesday.

Poland said the missile wasan "unfortunate accident," and Western officials said it likely caused as Ukrainian defense forces defending their country against a barrage of Russian missiles that day. 

Ignat said it was strange to him that "everyone paid attention to the incident in Poland, because it's a NATO member state, whereas the whole territory of Ukraine was attacked that day."

"These are the consequences of Russia's war against Ukraine and there are no guarantees that other countries won't be affected," Ignat said.

More than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have jobs in Germany

A spokesperson for Germany's Federal Employment Agency said on Thursday that 109,000 Ukrainian refugees who fled to Germany were listed as being employed in August.

That figure is presumed to be even higher in recent weeks.

Separately, the Munich-based Ifo Institute surveyed around 1,500 Ukrainian refugees. One-fifth of respondents said they had a job, but more than half of those said they were overqualified for the work they could find.

"The willingness to work is very high among Ukrainian refugees," Ifo researcher Tetyana Panchenko said.

Erdogan: Russia won't use nukes

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he is confident that neither Russia nor the United States will use nuclear weapons.

"Let me say this, according to information I received from my intelligence chief, neither of the sides will use nuclear weapons as of now," he told journalists at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

On Monday, American and Russian spy chiefs met in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in a rare-face-to-face meeting to discuss Moscow's recent nuclear threats.

"Of course we want them ... to come together often," Erdogan added.

Russia condemned over landmine use

The Geneva-based Landmine Monitor has accused Russia of undoing the progress made to reduce landmines over the past 25 years.

The organization said landmines used by Russia in Ukraine — as well as those used by Myanmar — have marred the 25th anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997.

"The greatest challenge to the emerging norm against these weapons can be seen in new use," it said

Some 165 countries have signed the treaty, which bans the use and stockpiling of land mines. Russia is not a signatory.

Landmine Monitor’s annual report identified 277 civilians who died from land mines or explosive remnants of war in Ukraine in the first nine months of 2022. That represents a fivefold increase from 2021.

"At least seven types of antipersonnel mines have been used by Russian forces in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24," it said. Some of them were manufactured as recently as last year. 

Black Sea grain deal renewed

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Thursday that the Black Sea grain deal between Ukraine and Russia will be extended for another 120 days.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova also confirmed Moscow is "allowing for the technical extension of the grain initiative without changes in terms or scope."

Ukraine was a major source of the world's grain before Russia invaded, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, but Russia had threatened not to renew the deal in recent weeks.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the agreement "by all parties to continue the Black Sea Grain Initiative to facilitate the safe navigation of export of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine."

Police find evidence of torture in Kherson

Ukrainian police said they have found evidence of torture in Kherson, the Black Sea port city that was recaptured by Ukrainian troops last Friday.

Speaking on Ukrainian television late Wednesday, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said people had been held captive at 11 locations. In four of these locations, he said there was evidence that prisoners had been tortured by Russian forces.

The information has not been independently confirmed. However, similar torture chambers have been found in the greater Kyiv and Kharkiv regions following Russian withdrawal.

"So far, 63 bodies have been found in the Kherson region," Monastyrsky said. "But we must be aware that the search has only just begun and many more torture chambers and burial sites will be discovered."

Picking up the pieces after Russian occupation

Russia blocks Novaya Gazeta website

Russia's media regulator blocked online access to independent news outlet Novaya Gazeta on Thursday.

The newspaper was forced to suspend print and online publication in March during the press crackdown that followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It was the last and most prominent of Russia's independent media outlets

More on the war in Ukraine

More than 70 German intellectuals have signed an open letter calling for greater support for Ukraine. DW spoke with one of the signatories about how some people are becoming "numb" to the conflict.

rm, zc/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)