Claims Russia holding hundreds in ‘torture chambers’

Russian forces have been accused of detaining about 600 people in underground 'torture chambers' in southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said the detainees were largely journalists and supporters of the Kyiv government who were being held in basements in the Kherson region, the AFP news agency reports.

"According to our information, some 600 people are … being held in specially converted basements in the region of Kherson," said Tamila Tacheva, the Ukraine presidency's permanent representative in the Crimea, the region to the south of Kherson which Russia seized in 2014.

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Tacheva said the bulk of those being held were "journalists and militants" who held "pro-Ukrainian gatherings" in the city of Kherson and the surrounding region around it after it was occupied by Russian forces in February.

"According to our information, they are being held in inhuman conditions and are victims of torture," Tacheva said.

Some Ukrainians held in the Kherson region – including civilians and detained soldiers – have been jailed in Crimea, she added.

Early in the war, Russian troops also took control of the entire Kherson region and a large part of the Zaporizhzhia region, both in the south.

Russian officials and their local appointees have talked about plans for those regions to either declare their independence or be folded into Russia.

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But in what may be the latest instance of anti-Russian sabotage inside Ukraine, Russian state media said on Tuesday that an explosion at a cafe in the city of Kherson wounded four people.

Tass called the apparent bombing in the Russian-occupied city a "terror act."

Before the February 24 invasion, Ukrainian officials said Russia controlled some 7 per cent of the country, including the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and areas held by the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces hold 20 per cent of the country.

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While Russia has superior firepower, the Ukrainian defenders are entrenched and have shown the ability to counterattack.

Zelenskyy said Russian forces made no significant advances in the eastern Donbas region over the past day.

– Reported with Associated Press

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