“We were only allowed to go to the toilet for two minutes every day. We were allowed to shower once every five days, for two minutes. We were given very little food. But twice a week. “
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, seven Sri Lankans who had come to Ukraine to find work or study were among the many stranded in the war zone.
The group hid from the invading forces and were later captured and taken to a machinery factory in the town of Vovchansk, near the Russian border. Six men and one woman between the ages of 20 and 40 were among them.
They have been detained for almost four months so far, during which they say they were subjected to torture and forced labour.
Two of these seven were severely tortured. One had his nails clipped first. He took off his shoes and showed off his toenails. The claws of the other were wedged between the doors, removed, and struck on the head. “There is evidence that his head still bears the trauma of those attacks,” investigators who found the group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, said in a statement.
Dilujan Patinathan, 20, described the inhumane treatment of Russian forces to Ukrainian journalists:
“We could only go to the toilet for two minutes every day. We were given a bath once every five days, for two minutes. We were given very little food. That’s about twice a week. “
“We did not even think of escaping slavery. They had a lot of weapons. We were attacked with rifles and machine guns. They did not treat us well. We didn’t get medicine for our illnesses.”
Another rescuer, Ainkaranathan Ganesamurthy (40), said the soldiers were drunk and forced the prisoners to clean up after themselves. “They beat me. I don’t know why. ‘Let’s go, let’s go’ pulled me. I don’t understand why they did that.”
The news of the rescue of the seven Sri Lankans was reported on September 17 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released a video statement about it.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka had received information in early March that seven Sri Lankans had gone missing in Ukraine. However, the newspaper also reported that there have been no complaints from the parents or relatives of the missing persons.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently in contact with its embassy in Ankara, Turkey – which is accredited to Ukraine – regarding the well-being of the seven Sri Lankans.
In the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has denied allegations that it targeted civilians or committed war crimes, but the BBC reports that in addition to the incidents of Sri Lankans, there have been many other details of atrocities committed by the Russian occupation forces.