Russian soldiers are being financially rewarded for extracting information from captured Ukrainians, a practice that is incentivising torture, a United Nations official has said.
Dr Alice Jill Edwards, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said Vladimir Putin’s troops receive a bonus of 10 per cent of their monthly salary if they capture a Ukrainian. That increases to 25 per cent if they are able to extract information or a confession, and 50 per cent if they turn a prisoner to working for the Russians.
Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Ms Edwards said: “Their method of doing this is through torture. It is through brutalising people. It is through humiliating and ridiculing people.
“These are not the actions of an entirely undisciplined military force but rather purposeful violence perpetrated against both civilians and prisoners of war [that amount to] state policy”.
Ms Edwards said the report she is preparing for the UN Human Rights Council, due to be delivered in March next year, will state that allegations of torture by Russian forces “were neither random nor incidental”.
Returning from a seven-day visit to Ukraine, she said prisoners of war had told her they had been forced to vote in sham referendums, having been held at gunpoint or been beaten.
“Some of them just thought this was another part of the humiliation and degradation, not realising that in fact for those outside the detention facilities there actually had been this so-called referendum,” Ms Edwards told The Telegraph’s Ukraine: The Latest podcast. “They just thought it was another part of the process of torture and humiliation.”
In September last year, nearly 100 per cent of voters supported joining Russia in four sham referendums held in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. Russian officials reportedly took ballot boxes door-to-door to force residents to vote, threatening to massacre their families if they did not comply.
The Ukraine prosecutor general’s office told the UN that 90 per cent of people liberated from occupied areas who had been detained were “subjected to torture of other inhuman or degrading treatment, including rape and sexual violence,” Ms Edwards said.
A charity in one region of Kherson has also conducted a survey that found 107 out of 300 prisoners of war had been subject to “sexual forms of torture”.
Describing Russia’s use of torture as an “orchestrated campaign”, Ms Edwards said the war “is being perpetrated on the bodies and minds of Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war”.
She criticised the United States’ decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, claiming the weapons are “incompatible with obligations under the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” because they are “indiscriminate”.
She has urged the US government to change its policy but has yet to receive a response. Although there is clear evidence Russia is not following international law, Ms Edwards said Ukraine “must conform with international humanitarian law and international human rights law”.