A Russian army officer admitted the crimes of the invading forces in Ukraine: “Prisoners were tortured twice a day”
A former Russian army officer, Konstantin Yefremovrevealed this Thursday the torture and abuses of the invading Russian forces against the Ukrainians, in the first statements by a Russian soldier about the war crimes of the troops of Vladimir Putin.
Now considered a traitor and defector from the Kremlin, Yefremov spoke openly about Russian crimes in an exclusive interview on British public television. BBC.
As he recounted in his horrifying story, the prisoners were tortured for a week “every day, at night, even twice a day”.
Yefremov recounted that he arrived in Crimea on February 10, 2022 at the head of a demining unit of the 42nd Rifle Division. The war had not yet broken out. The troops, he recounted, were told they were going to participate in “military exercises.”
“At that time, nobody believed that there would be a war. Everyone thought that this was just a drill. I’m sure even the senior officers didn’t know about it,” he told the BBC.
Yefremov remembers seeing Russian troops putting identification marks on their uniforms and painting the letter “Z” in military equipment and vehicles. At that time, he decided to resign and communicated the decision to the commander. “He took me to a superior officer who called me a traitor and a coward,” he recounted. “I put my gun down, got in a taxi and left. I wanted to go back to my base in Chechnya and officially resign. Then my colleagues said he phoned me with a warning. A colonel had promised to put me in jail for up to 10 years for desertion and had alerted the police”.
“I was afraid that they would put me in jail,” he said. That’s why she decided to stay. Later, his battalion was transferred to protect what he described as a “logistics headquarters” in the city of bilmak, northeast of Melitopol. There, he said that he witnessed the interrogation and ill-treatment of Ukrainian prisoners.
During the interview with the BBCYefremov recalled that his comrades brought three Ukrainian prisoners to where he was.
“One of them admitted to being a sniper. Hearing this, the Russian colonel lost his mind. He hit him, pulled down the Ukrainian’s pants and asked him if he was married. ‘Yes,’ replied the prisoner. ‘Then somebody get me a mop,’ said the colonel. ‘We will turn you into a girl and send the video to your wife,’” he said.
On another occasion the colonel asked the prisoner to name all the Ukrainian nationalists in his unit.
“The Ukrainian did not understand the question. He replied that the soldiers were naval infantry from the Ukrainian armed forces. For that answer they pulled out some teeth”, he told the BBC.
He then explained that the Ukrainian prisoner was blindfolded.
“The colonel put a gun to the prisoner’s forehead and told him: ‘I’m going to count to three and then I’ll shoot you in the head.’ He counted and then shot right to the side of his head, on both sides. The colonel started yelling at him. I told him: ‘Comrade Colonel! He can’t hear you, he has deafened you!’”.
Furthermore, it was that same superior who ordered both him and his companions not to give the prisoners normal food, but only water and cookies. “We tried to give them hot tea and cigarettes,” he confessed.
And, so that they would not sleep on the bare ground, Yefremov also recalled how his men threw hay at them, “at night, so that no one would see us.”
During another interrogation, that same colonel shot a prisoner in the arm and right leg below the knee.
Yefremov said that his men bandaged the prisoner and turned to the Russian commanders –“Not the colonel, he was crazy”, he said- and they said that the prisoner needed to go to the hospital, otherwise he would die from loss of blood.
“We dressed him in a Russian uniform and took him to the hospital. We told him: ‘Don’t say you are a Ukrainian prisoner of war, because the doctors will refuse to treat you or the wounded Russian soldiers will hear you and want to shoot you and we won’t be able to stop them.’
At the end of May, back in Chechnya, Yefremov decided to resign from the army. The consequence? Threats and dismissal. He technically didn’t quit, but he was fired.
A Russian human rights group helped him leave Russia. “I apologize to the entire Ukrainian nation for coming to his house as an uninvited guest with a gun in hand. Thank God I didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t kill anyone. Thank God, they didn’t kill me. I don’t even have the moral right to apologize to the Ukrainians. I can’t forgive myself so I can’t expect to be forgiven,” he said.
In her note, the BBC explained that he could not independently confirm the specific claims of torture by Konstantin Yefremov, but they are consistent with other claims of abuse against Ukrainian prisoners. His participation in the war was also confirmed by the outlet after the Russian provided photos and documents that validated his participation in the war in Ukraine, specifically in the region of Zaporizhzhyaincluding the city of Melitopol.