Russia orders the creation of 24 penal colonies in occupied Ukraine, says report

Russia orders the creation of 24 penal colonies in occupied Ukraine, says report
Security worker walks by the gate of a penal colony in Vladimir, Russia.Kirill Zarubin/AP Photo
  • Russia has ordered the creation of 24 penal colonies in annexed parts of Ukraine, per Meduza.
  • The decree outlines plans to create colonies in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.

Russia has ordered the creation of two dozen penal colonies in occupied parts of Ukraine, according to the Latvia-based independent media outlet Meduza.

The governmental decree, which was published on Tuesday, outlines the creation of 24 facilities in regions of Ukraine that have unilaterally been declared by Russian leadership as part of Russia, amid its ongoing invasion.

In these colonies, prisoners are housed in barracks, not cells, and are often forced into labor for up to 16 hours of a day, according to the Polish think tank Centre for Eastern Studies.

The think tank said that many resemble their infamous ancestor: the Soviet-era gulag.

The published decree outlines plans to create 12 new penal colonies in Donetsk, seven in Luhansk, three in Kherson, and two in Zaporizhzhia, Meduza reported.


The government also plans for three medical correctional facilities and three correctional centers.

According to a 2021 US State Department report, overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, torture, and the inadequate provision of healthcare and sanitation are commonplace in these colonies.

Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian online newspaper, reported that there were 626 penal colonies in Russia as of November 2022.

Ukrainian prisoners have previously been transported to penal colonies on Russian territory, according to research by Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny and, per Meduza.

The head of, Volodymyr Osechkin, told Meduza that Ukrainian prisoners arriving in Russian penal colonies were often treated cruelly, with stun guns regularly being used on them.


A report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found that Ukrainian service members were stripped of their belongings before being transferred to the makeshift penal colonies.

One prisoner told UN investigators that he was detained in a Russian penal colony near Donetsk and during one interrogation session had wires attached to his genitalia and nose and received electric shocks, per the report.

Other prisoners in the report detailed other forms of sexual violence and humiliating forms of torture, including one who said a lit cigarette was placed in his nostrils.