Ukrainians describe horrors of Kherson occupation

STORY: In the southern city of Kherson – recently liberated by Ukrainian forces – residents call the two-story police station there “The Hole.”

The green-roofed building was the most notorious of several sites where people were interrogated and tortured during Russia’s nine-month occupation, according to more than half a dozen locals.

Reuters could not independently verify all of the events described by Kherson residents.

Resident Vitalii Serdiuk said he was lucky to make it out alive.

He's a retired medical equipment repairman - his son is a soldier in the Ukrainian army.

“They tortured me asking: 'Where is your son? Where is your daughter-in-law? Where? If you don’t tell us, we will take your wife and torture her.' While being tortured, I said that I know nothing, that I know nothing. That I had not talked to my son and that I know nothing."

Aliona Lapchuk said she and her eldest son fled Kherson in April after a terrifying ordeal at the hands of Russian security personnel in March.

It was the last time she saw her husband Vitaliy, who had been an underground resistance fighter since Russian troops seized the city.

“When they took the weapons from our basement, they beat him up so badly, the house was literally shaking. My mother started shouting, and approached them holding a bible, saying: ‘Please.’ She was crying (LAPCHUK’S VOICE BREAKS), and I told her ‘What are you doing? They don’t believe in it.'”

Lapchuk’s husband was later found floating in a river… she found out in June.

She's convinced he was betrayed to the Russians by someone close to them.

The Kremlin and Russia's defence ministry did not immediately respond to questions about the accounts.

But Moscow has rejected allegations of abuse against civilians and soldiers...

and has accused Ukraine of staging such abuses in places like Bucha.

On Tuesday, the U.N. human rights body said it had found evidence that both sides had tortured prisoners of war, which is classified as a war crime by the International Criminal Court.

Russian abuse was "fairly systematic," a U.N. official said.