Ukrainian teen says Russian troops held him for 3 months, made him clean prison “torture room”


Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine — All over Ukraine, amid Russia’s brutal invasion, people have gone missing. Experts say abductions and forced disappearances are part of a Russian military tactic aimed at terrorizing communities and demoralizing civilian resistance to Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion. As CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams reports, they have forced families to become detectives.

Williams met 16-year-old Vlad Buriak just after he made it home following what he said was nearly three months in captivity. His family say he was a child prisoner of Russia’s military, and the allegations over his detention could amount to war crimes.

Last week, Vlad was finally reunited with his father, Oleh, who told CBS News he feared he’d never see his eldest son alive again.

Vlad told Williams he was taken captive by Russian troops in April as he evacuated from Melitopol with other civilians. The city on Ukraine’s south coast is now under Russian occupation.

Vlad Buriak, 16, sits next to his father Oleh as they speak with CBS News’ Holly Williams in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

CBS News

He said that when Russian soldiers stopped the car in which he was trying to flee at a checkpoint, they threatened to kill him. Instead, he told Williams, the troops took him to a jail in occupied territory, where he was held for several weeks.

Vlad showed CBS News a map he had drawn of the prison, including rooms used as an office by the occupiers, a shower room, and what he described as a “torture room.”

He claims he witnessed the Russian guards torturing other Ukrainian prisoners. CBS News cannot independently verify Vlad’s story, and he said he was not tortured himself, but he gave a detailed account of being put to work cleaning the room he says was used for torture.

Inside that room, he said he saw “a lot of blood,” and one Ukrainian prisoner hanging from the ceiling by his hands. Another prisoner told the teenager that he’d been tortured with electric shocks.

Vlad said he had heard the sounds of torture himself: People crying out in pain, begging for help.

Oleh, Vlad’s father, is a senior Ukrainian official in the region, and he claims the Russians knew that and held his son hostage hoping for a prisoner swap. Oleh said the Russian troops were stealing everything they could in occupied territory, from washing machines to toilets, and even children.

“It’s all for greed,” he said.

What the Buriaks say happened to them is not an isolated incident. Ukraine’s government is reportedly investigating hundreds of forced disappearances since the Russian invasion began.

The work of war crimes prosecutors investigating Russian atrocities in Ukraine


Oleh told CBS News that he negotiated directly with the Russian side to secure Vlad’s release, but he didn’t want to share the details, because he hopes that what happened to his teenage son will be prosecuted as a war crime.

For the time being, he’s just trying to enjoy the first calm he’s felt in months, now that he has his son back.

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