The Ukrainian claimed that during the occupation of his village by Russia, he was tied up, beaten and electrocuted.

But instead of the Russian military directly swearing at him, 46-year-old Andrey Matezh claimed that they were local Ukrainian policemen who had switched allegiance.

“Someone tortured me,” he said, speaking at his home, which is about four miles from Ukraine’s border with Russia.

“They were in the police before the invasion, and then they went over to the Russian side.”

Ukraine has accused Russian troops of using torture in areas they controlled, saying more than 10 torture chambers were found in newly liberated parts of the Kharkiv region in the country’s northeast.

But Mr. Matiazh’s claims help illustrate an additional problem.

Not only must the authorities investigate alleged war crimes by the Russian invaders, including torture, murder, and rape, but they must also be on the lookout for Ukrainian collaborators.

Over the past two weeks, the Ukrainian military has recaptured towns and villages all the way to the Russian border, including a number of checkpoints.

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But they have yet to secure peace as the risk of Russian shelling of one of the border posts on Sunday was deemed so great that Sky News was told it was too dangerous to visit.

However, we were able to spend time with Mr. Matezh in his village along the road surrounded by fields and hills that border the edge of this part of Ukraine and the entrance to Russia.

A thin man with a kind smile lives with his wife and two of his three sons, aged 16 and 11. Their eldest son, 29 years old, who bears the same name as his father, serves in the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine.

“I felt happiness and pain at the same time”

Andrei Matiazh Jr. took us to a modest one-story house. It was just days after he was able to return to hug his parents for the first time since Russia’s retreat.

They tried to describe that moment.

“My insides turned upside down [with joy]”said his mother, 46-year-old Lyubov.

Her soldier son said: “I felt happiness and pain at the same time. It is impossible to understand these feelings. It is too difficult to describe.’

“I was shaking for 30 minutes”

The parents were on the front lines of the full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24, given the proximity of their village to the border.

“I saw planes, helicopters flying so low, they were flying between yards,” said the mother.

“I was shaking for 30 minutes. The youngest child had a tantrum.”

They said the Russian military had taken control of the nearest town, Vavchansk, while the people in charge of the villages came from parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have been under Russian control since Moscow first invaded in 2014.

Russian passports

Residents of their village were offered Russian passports, the couple said.

“They didn’t accept us, but most of the civilians took their passports,” Lyubov said. “I believe they did it out of fear.”

The couple also claimed that the Russian military and their proxies would steal property in the area.

It added to the atmosphere of mistrust and abuse that seriously affected the family just two days before Ukraine’s counter-offensive reached their territory earlier this month.

“I had bruises”

The father said he was ordered to come to the courthouse in the local town.

He said that five people who worked under Russian occupation were involved in the case, including their distant relative.

“They took me to the second floor. I received three or four blows to the face,” he said.

“Then they tied my hands behind my back, took off my shoes and socks, and connected my little finger and foot with a metal cable. They put me down and started electrocuting me.”

He said he was also blindfolded.

At some point a different type of charge was used on his leg – he still has scars on one thigh.

“The capillaries in my eyes have collapsed, my eyes are red. I had bruises. I didn’t even feel anything when I was hit in the face after the electricity,” Mr. Matiazh Sr. said.

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“I knew our soldiers were coming”

He said that he was questioned about a local theft, which he had nothing to do with.

This went on for two hours before he was told he would be released but must return within a few days with information – a threat his father took to mean he had to become an informer or face more torture.

After returning home, he and his wife discussed trying to escape, but they did not have enough money.

“I decided to hide somewhere in the bushes, in abandoned houses and wait for our soldiers. I knew that our soldiers were coming,” he said.

He believes that the attack saved his life.

The eldest son said: “All the bad policemen fled to Russia.”

When asked how he felt after hearing his father’s story about the torture and conditions in the village during the occupation, Andrei Jr. answered: “Terrible and terrible.”

He wondered if his connection to the military might have been a reason for the attack on his father, noting that some of his classmates had gone to the police and knew he was in the military. “I am not accusing anyone, but someone… betrayed me,” he said.

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