'You can't imagine the conditions' - Accounts emerge of Russian detention camps

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'You can't imagine the conditions' - Accounts emerge of Russian detention camps

"You can't imagine how horrible the conditions were."

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Oleksandr and Olena are two of the lucky few who recently managed to escape from Mariupol, which is now almost under full Russian control after weeks of bombardment.

The city is effectively sealed off from the world, and information about what is happening inside is difficult to confirm independently.

But the pair, and others, have given chilling accounts of life in Russia's so-called filtration camps, set up outside Mariupol to house civilians before they are evacuated.

Oleksandr and Olena, speaking from the relatively safe western city of Lviv, say they ended up at one of the centres when they tried to escape the city. After walking from their home to an evacuation point, they were driven to a Russian refugee hub at a former school in the village of Nikolske, north-west of Mariupol.

"It was like a true concentration camp," Oleksandr, 49, says.

The centres have been compared by Ukrainian officials to those used during Russia's war in Chechnya, when thousands of Chechens were brutally interrogated and many disappeared.

Oleksandr and Olena were fingerprinted, photographed from all sides, and interrogated for several hours by Russian security officers - "like in a prison", he says.