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Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Live coverage – Friday 14th July

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Russia is imprisoning thousands of Ukrainian civilians on its territory and in occupied territories and wants to increase this number even more: it plans to build 25 new penal colonies in occupied Ukraine, the Associated Press agency reports.

The AP has obtained a document according to which the Russian government plans to establish 25 new penal colonies and six other types of penitentiary centers in the occupied territory of Ukraine. They are to be built by 2026. In addition, in May this year, as the agency reminds, Vladimir Putin signed a decree that provides for sending people from areas under martial law – that is, from occupied territories – to places where there is no martial law. In practice, this enables the deportation deep into Russia of those Ukrainians who oppose the occupation. The AP has already documented many such cases.

The agency describes that Ukrainians in Russian captivity are forced, for example, to dig trenches on the front line or mass graves – for those prisoners who did not survive. If they refuse, they can be shot on the spot. Many prisoners are deprived of their rights under Russian law.

AP journalists spoke with 20 people who underwent Russian captivity, including former prisoners of war, as well as with the families of imprisoned civilians, Ukrainian intelligence representatives and a government negotiator in Kiev. Their accounts, as well as satellite imagery, social media, government documents and copies of letters provided by the Red Cross confirm the existence of a large-scale Russian system of detention and exploitation of civilians in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Civilians are often detained for fictitious violations, such as simply speaking Ukrainian. They are often detained even without any charges. Russia uses hundreds of people for slave labor, where it has become routine to torture prisoners – beating or electrocuting them. Russia even denies that it is holding civilians.

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As one of at least 40 places in Russia and Belarus where civilians are imprisoned, the agency lists penal colony No. 2 in the Rostov region, expanded since the outbreak of the war. There are 63 temporary and formalized penitentiary centers in the occupied territories. A recent UN report included information on 37 prisons in Russia and Belarus and 125 in the occupied territories.

Ukrainian authorities estimate that up to 10,000 civilians may be held captive.

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