Around 600 people are “being held hostage” in “rooms outfitted as torture chambers” and “pre-trial detention” facilities in the Russian-occupied Kherson region, according to a Ukrainian official.
Of the 600, half are “being held hostage in the Kherson regional state administration building, in a pre-trial detention center, and in vocational school No. 17 in the city of Henichesk,” said Tamila Tasheva, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's representative to Crimea, said during a televised address Tuesday, citing government agencies and activists who recently fled the occupied territory.
CNN cannot independently verify Tasheva’s claim and has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for a response to the allegations.
Those being held were described by Tasheva as “civilian hostages, activists, journalists and military prisoners of war (POWs),” some of whom she claimed have been taken from Kherson to Simferopol -- the second largest city in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Nearly all of Kherson -- located in southern Ukraine -- has been occupied by Russia since its invasion in late February.
Ukrainian officials estimate at least half the civilian population of Kherson has left the region during the war.
In late May, the Russian-installed administration in Kherson officially closed the region's boundaries to surrounding Ukrainian government-controlled areas.
The move came after exit points from Kherson had already been unofficially blocked for weeks, according to Ukrainian officials, who alleged that anyone wanting to leave the region was being sent to Crimea.
Efforts by the Russian-installed administration in Kherson to put in place military bases, and advance what US and Ukrainian officials say would be a sham referendum to make the region a “Republic,” mirroring other Russian-backed regions in eastern Ukraine, are ongoing.