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Charges laid against former SBU official accused of abducting, torturing residents in Melitopol

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Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), in coordination with the State Bureau of Investigations (SBR), has laid charges in absentia against a former SBU official accused of abducting and torturing local residents in occupied Melitopol, the service announced on Feb. 9.

Serhiy Handzha, who has been living in exile in Russia since 2014, is alleged to have collaborated “organized mass persecution, abductions and torture of locals,” as well as suppressing resistance to the Russian invasion in the region, according to the SBU.

Handzha, a high-ranking SBU official under ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, headed the Russian Federal Security Service in occupied Melitopol in Zaporizhzhya Oblast shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“People were abducted directly from the streets or from their own homes and then taken to Russian torture chambers,” the SBU alleged. “Severe torture was applied to the victims in the (torture chambers).”

The maximum sentence for collaboration under Ukraine’s criminal code is up to 15 years in prison.

“Comprehensive measures are currently being taken to bring the perpetrator to justice for crimes against Ukraine,” the SBU added.

Handzha has been listed as an international fugitive since 2015, wanted by Ukraine for treason. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council revoked all of Handzha’s state awards and titles in February 2021.

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