There was little respite in victory for Ukrainian forces during the recent liberation Kupiansk. Russian bullets still hit its scarred streets, blurring the horizon with clouds of black smoke.
Heavy damage was visible on most of the buildings. A giant billboard with the Russian flag waving next to the bridge over the Oskil River in the city center reads: “We are one people with Russia!”
Present, Ukrainian Army drove Russian forces across the bridge and appeared to be building some momentum to push across the east bank of the river toward Luhansk, an important breakaway territory controlled by Moscow. CNN witnessed Ukrainian infantry walking back from the east.
However, inside this city, one of several in the eastern Kharkiv region that has been liberated, are signs that tell of a hellish occupation. Ukrainian authorities told CNN, a police building formerly used by Russia as a vast detention center, where up to 400 prisoners were at one time held in cramped and dark cells, with 8 or 9 prisoners per room. The brightly painted mural of a Russian soldier with a “Z” on his armband standing next to an elderly woman waving the flag of the former Soviet empire is still visible on one wall.
As authorities continued to investigate and wipe out liberated towns in the Kharkiv region, they found more and more evidence of detention centers and cells being used for torture.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that “more than 10 torture chambers” used by occupying forces have so far been found in the area. “When the occupiers fled, they also dropped the torture devices,” he said.
CNN has reached out to the Russian government for comment but has not received a response.
Kupiansk may have been liberated recently but the city is a ghost town, riddled with devastation and debris.
Few locals still gather in its empty shell.