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"They beat me with their fists, a chair, anything they could find. They stubbed out cigarettes on my leg and electrocuted me."

Amnesty International says the bulk of the kidnappings are carried out by pro-Russian rebels.

Ukraine A Donetsk People Republic's fighter looks on at a block-post near the city of Donetsk. Source: AP/Press Association Images

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SAYS it has gathered “graphic and compelling evidence” of savage beatings and other torture meted out against activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine over the last three months.

Amnesty says that a research team visited Kyiv and south-eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, uncovering allegations of abduction and torture perpetrated by separatist armed groups and pro-Kyiv forces.

“With hundreds abducted over the last three months, the time has come to take stock of what has happened, and stop this abhorrent ongoing practice,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia.

“The bulk of the abductions are being perpetrated by armed separatists, with the victims often subjected to stomach-turning beatings and torture. There is also evidence of a smaller number of abuses by pro-Kyiv forces.”

Ukraine Ukrainian troops sit in a vehicle as they leave a site of a battle in Mariupol. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Hanna, a pro-Ukrainian activist, told Amnesty International how she was abducted by armed men in the eastern city of Donetsk on 27 May. She was held for six days before being released in a prisoner exchange. She described how she was violently interrogated.

“My face was smashed, he punched me in the face with his fist, he was trying to beat me everywhere, I was covering myself with my hands …. I was huddled in the corner, curled up in a ball with my hands around my knees. He was angry that I was trying to protect myself. He went out and came back with a knife.”

She described how her interrogator made her write a separatist slogan on the wall, in her own blood.

Ukraine A Pro-Russian fighter stands guard in Donetsk. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Sasha, a 19-year-old pro-Ukrainian activist, fled to Kyiv after he was abducted by separatists at gunpoint in Luhansk. He said he was beaten repeatedly for 24 hours.

“They beat me with their fists, a chair, anything they could find. They stubbed out cigarettes on my leg and electrocuted me. It went on for so long, I couldn’t feel anything anymore, I just passed out,” he told Amnesty International.

He was finally released after his father paid a US$60,000 ransom.

While the vast majority of allegations of abduction and torture are levelled against separatist pro-Russian groups, pro-Kyiv forces, including self-defence groups, have also been implicated in the ill-treatment of captives.

“In Mariupol, police and military were nowhere to be seen during our visit. There was a complete vacuum of authority and security, with fear of reprisals, abduction and torture permeating amongst the people,” said Denis Krivosheev.

Bríd McGrath, Campaigns & Activism Manager at Amnesty International Ireland, said: “It is reprehensible that we are seeing an escalation in abduction and torture in Ukraine. All those engaged in this armed conflict must immediately and unconditionally release any captives who are still being held unlawfully, and ensure that until their release they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment.”.

Read: Kiev promises ‘restraint’ as army nears rebel Donetsk

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