«I was lucky they did not electrocute my balls»

After being tortured, Artur escaped from Herson and joined the volunteer battalion Karlsson.
After being tortured, Artur escaped from Herson and joined the volunteer battalion Karlsson. Photo: Erik Prozes

Hundreds of pro-Ukrainian activists were imprisoned in Kherson during the Russian occupation, when the main torture method was electric shock. 20-year-old Artur told Postimees reporters his story.

On May 9, when the Russian occupiers celebrated the Victory Day of World War II in Kherson with a big rally, Artur went there with his friends to show his attitude. Artur had a ribbon with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on his chest.

The Russian soldiers, of course, did not like it and ordered it to be taken away. Arthur refused. Then the soldiers began to forcefully tear the blue and yellow ribbon from him. Artur and his friends resisted. It all ended with Artur being taken to the basement with five companions.

To be “taken to the basement” means, in local parlance, being arrested by the Russian occupation authorities and taken to an improvised prison somewhere. In most cases, such places were located in the basements of buildings.

On the second day, the Russian occupiers who kept him in the basement began to torture him with electric shocks. This was done to all prisoners.

“They demanded names from me. Meaning whether I know anyone from the Ukrainian military, special services, also the names of activists,” said Artur. “I did not know anyone, but they did not believe it.”

They started by beating Artur. First with fists. When Artur fell down, he was kicked.

Artur has a strong build. He is an MMA fighter. He is one of the best mixed martial arts athletes in Ukraine among men weighing up to 77 kg. He is an internationally known athlete. Before the war, he worked as a children's coach.

“My body is used to blows. This beating was, to be honest, nothing compared to when they started torturing me with electricity,” said Artur.

Since the beating did not work, Artur was lifted up and made to sit on a stool. “Think a little, because we shall see how tough you are,” the Russian torturers told Artur.

The torturers brought an electric device from the next room where the previous victim was apparently tortured. At first, wires were attached to Artur's hands and electricity was turned on. “It wasn't very painful," Artur said.

Then electric wires were stuck into Artur's ears. “It was already more painful. Very painful,” said Artur. “I screamed in pain. Imagine yourself having electric current run into your ears.”

Artur was tortured with electricity for two hours. They turned on the power, Artur screamed and then they demanded: “Give me the names.” Artur did not give the names because he did not know any. Eventually, the torturers apparently realized that he really did not know, and he was thrown into the cell. He was not tortured anymore.

Artur is one of the best-known free fighters in Ukraine.
Artur is one of the best-known free fighters in Ukraine. Photo: Erik Prozes

According to Artur, he was actually lucky.

“I was lucky they did not run electricity in my balls,” he said.

The Russian torturers used electricity on the genitals like this: one terminal was attached to the balls and the other one to the penis. That was supposed to be the most painful. It turns the penis purple afterwards. Then one tells them everything. Even what one does not know.

"They put some men's hands in boiling water," Artur said about the torturers. "Afterwards, the hand looked like a boiled chicken leg."

Artur was held in the cellar for eight days.

He was released after his face was no longer black and blue and he was able to tell on video that he was willingly cooperating with his tormentors and inviting all Kherson residents to do so. Of course, no one took such videos seriously.

In June, Artur managed to escape from Kherson to the territory controlled by Ukraine. He joined the volunteer battalion called Karlsson, in whose ranks he still fights. He is currently keeping order in his hometown of Kherson. "I am very sorry that I could not enter Kherson in the first ranks,” he said.