Russian troops detained a territorial defence fighter from Kherson, Serhiy Ruban, in June last year near his place of deployment. A combat grenade was found on his person. The man was sent to a temporary detention centre, where the Russians set up a torture chamber. There, the man was mercilessly beaten for three days until he died. The occupiers concealed the death of the tortured man from his family. Serhiy’s mother hoped to the last that her son was in captivity. Kherson investigators found those who killed the man.
The Slidstvo.Info journalists talked to a witness to Serhiy Ruban’s murder, his mother and visited the torture chamber in Kherson where the Russian military held Ukrainians. The video has English subtitles.
WHO TORTURED SERHIY RUBAN
“This is where the detainees began their journey. They were taken to the courtyard. Those who were detained were necessarily blindfolded, either with a hat on their heads or wearing sacks so that they could not see anything,” Andriy Kovanyi, a spokesman for the Kherson police, guided journalists through the path of the prisoners.
In one of the rooms, the occupiers set up a torture chamber. The walls still have stains from the rubber truncheons used to beat people. There is also blood.
“In fact, this room is saturated with human suffering. This is how it is. Water was poured down their throats here. They beat people very hard. They tortured people with electric shocks,” the police officer said.
Earlier, Slidstvo.Info told about the torturers who abducted and tortured Kherson residents in the temporary detention centre. They were identified by investigators. They are the deputy head of the Rostov region’s Russian Guard, Aleksandr Naumenko, and his subordinates, Aleksandr Chelingirov, Anver Muksimov and Aleksandr Bocharov.
The journalists identified two more Russian soldiers — Yegor Bondarenkov and Andrey Lisov. They were recognised by a man who was abducted by the occupiers and tortured for several days.
It turned out that police officers from the war crimes investigation department were just preparing a suspicion against Bondarenkov. They found out that he, together with Aleksandr Chelingirov and as yet unidentified Russian soldiers, had tortured a man, Serhiy Ruban.
“CALL AN AMBULANCE”. AND HE REPLIED: “TAKE A TOWEL, WET IT AND PUT IT ON HIS CHEST”.
A man who was in the same cell as the deceased said that Serhiy Ruban had been severely beaten for several days. He came with a grenade to the place of deployment of the Russian military and was therefore tortured with greater cruelty.
Serhiy could neither sit nor lie down: his ribs were broken. The beatings did not stop. In the evening of 17 June, Russian guards ran into the cell and beat Serhiy together with another prisoner.
“I hear that Serhiy is already starting to say a prayer: ‘I can’t take it anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore, I’m done, I’m done, I’m done’. I said: “Come on, don’t give up, Serhiy, hold on”. And he was already losing coordination, starting to lean back. I hold him, and he bows his head and begins to say a prayer. And I already understand that he is giving up. I knocked on the door and said: “Call an ambulance”. And he replied: “Take a towel, wet it, put it on his chest,” the man recalls.
Serhiy died of his injuries. The Russians forced the witnesses to sign documents stating that they had not seen or known anything.
“IF IT’S NECESSARY, IT’S NECESSARY”
Nina, Serhiy Ruban’s mother, raised her son on her own. In order not to sit on her shoulders, he started working after the 9th grade. At the age of 18, he joined the army. His mother recalls how he returned, rested for three days and went back to work to help her.
“He always helped me, never refused me. Not only did he never refuse me, but he was so reliable. If it was necessary, it was necessary. There is no more help. I had only him,” says Nina.
For the past few years, Serhiy had been working as a sales assistant for building materials. On 24 February 2022, when the full-scale invasion began, Serhiy had a day off.
“My neighbour called, I said: “Why are you calling so early, let’s go to bed.” And she said: “What sleep, it’s war!”. I woke Serhiy up, he got dressed, went to the store, got some water, got ready and went to the military commissariat,” Nina recalls.
That’s how Serhiy Ruban joined the Kherson Territorial Defence. For several days he was on duty in a hospital, a boarding school and on the bypass road. And then he returned home, armed and fully equipped.
“They were given the command to ‘wait’. To be ready, to be in touch. He went with the guys, and looked at where the occupiers were stationed. They were not far from the crossing. It was impossible to leave. I told him: “Go alone, I will only be a burden to you”. He replied: “Where am I going to go, I’m conscripted,” Nina says.
Serhiy returned to work. Kherson was occupied by the Russians. Serhiy could not put up with it.
“I just couldn’t talk to him. After work, he would take a break for a while, then say: “I can’t stand it. They are bossing me around like they do at home.” Serhiy was the kind of person who could endure for a long time and then explode,” the woman says.
“THEY FOUND MY SON, HE IS IN A MASS GRAVE”
On 12 June, Serhiy returned from work and came home. His mother and a neighbour were drinking tea in the yard and did not notice the man leave. Probably, Serhiy went out through another door.
“And at 22:00, there was such a noise on the street. The neighbour came out. In short, the occupiers arrested Serhiy. He said he had gone out with a friend. They got under the curfew. When they brought Serhiy, he was standing by the car, and I went to him. He did not say who he was with. He said: “Mum, they beat me”. The other boy was able to escape, but Serhiy was wearing flip-flops and couldn’t,” says his mother.
The occupiers said that Serhiy came to them with a weapon. But Nina did not understand what had happened. Serhiy, along with another territorial defence fighter, came to the Russians. The man had a grenade.
“He was there with someone from the territorial defence, but they didn’t give each other away. What he said: “I don’t know him,” and Serhiy said he didn’t know him either,” Nina recalls.
On 16 June, Nina received a message from her son: “Mum, I’m fine, I’ll be home soon”. But Serhiy never returned home.
“A week passes, and he’s not here. Every day I wait, wait, he is not there. I went to the commandant’s office to write a claim. I wrote a claim. Then a day later I went to get the result. And they showed me the screen on the mobile phone. They put their hand over it to cover who it was from. And it was written that Ruban Serhiy was released from the detention centre on 18 June,” says the mother.
For 8.5 months, the woman searched in vain for Serhiy. At the end of February this year, Nina received a call from an investigator who said that her son had been found.
“I was hoping that he was in captivity until the last moment. I asked where he was found, and he replied: “On Geologiv Street, in a mass grave,” the woman says.
Serhiy was recognised by his tattoo – the year of his birth, 1980, was engraved on his fingers. Later, the DNA test results came back.
“When I was making lunch (a memorial meal — ed.) on 18 June, I invited a guy. And he told me: “He (Serhiy — ed.) was not himself for a whole week. He kept saying: “I’ll do something to them, I’ll do something”. He was also persuaded: “What can you do alone… You can’t do anything alone.” But it turned out that he did. He went there with a grenade,” Nina says.
The material was prepared with the support of the European Union and the International Renaissance Foundation within the framework of the joint initiative “European Renaissance of Ukraine”. The material represents the position of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union or the International Renaissance Foundation.
The material was also produced with the support of the International Insurance Fund for Journalists project.