A Ukrainian teenager captured by Russians claims he had to clean up rooms where fellow prisoners were tortured and held a man who attempted suicide by slitting his wrists.
Vlad Buryak, 16, was captured by Russians as he tried to flee his hometown of Melitopol in central Ukraine. He ended up in solitary confinement somewhere in Russian-occupied Ukraine, where he said he witnessed indescribable scenes of cruelty.
“I was extremely scared. I was shocked. Like everything inside me was burned down,” he told The Washington Post.
Buryak recalled one cellmate who was routinely beaten and electrocuted for hours each day, with his screams echoing out throughout the cell block. The man ultimately slit his wrists with sharpened tin can lids and lay dying in the teenager’s arms, Buryak said.
The man was later collected by Russian guards and moved to a new location. It’s unclear whether he survived.
On other occasions Buryak said he was forced to clean the rooms where other prisoners were tortured and often disposed of blood-soaked medical supplies.
“I had no emotions,” he told the paper. “I have bottled them all up. I was acting like nothing had happened. I showed no aggression, so they won’t do the same thing with me.”
Russia has long denied that it has ever engaged in torture or other war crimes, and the outlet said it couldn’t independently verify Buryak’s story. US officials have said the country has kidnapped thousands of Ukrainians during the conflict and that torture is common.
Buryak, however, was lucky. His father Oleg Buryak was a high-ranking official back in Ukraine. On July 4 Oleg was contacted by a Russian negotiator who offered to arrange a prisoner swap, according to the report.
The younger Buryak refused to get into the details of the deal, but father and son were reunited at a roadside along the edge of occupied Ukraine.
“When Vlad was kidnapped, it felt like a piece of my heart was torn away from me,” Oleg Buryak told the paper. “And when I hugged him, I felt like that piece came back.”