HE was just 14 when Putin’s thugs snatched him off the street as he took an walk in the tiny Ukrainian village where he lived.
Vitaliy Mukharsky and his uncle Oleksiy, 27, were blindfolded and thrown into a pit of pork intestines before being taken to jail where the teen was starved for four days.
Vitaliy said: “I was scared of gunshots because they were playing Russian roulette.
“They were shooting randomly with their eyes closed. I saw blood coming into our cell through the door.”
His uncle was quizzed by Russian FSB gangsters and when the pair were finally freed 10 days later Olesksiy emerged grey-haired.
But Vitaliy is just grateful they escaped with their lives – other Ukrainian children have not been as lucky.
This summer the war-stricken country grieved as it reached the grim milestone of 500 children killed in the invasion.
And another 19,500 have been abducted and taken to sinister Russian brainwashing ‘zombie’ camps – possibly lost forever.
Those who have escaped the camps – masquerading as schools – describe being beaten, starved, kept in basements, put in isolation rooms and forced to sing the Russian national anthem.
The Sun can today reveal how Russians in occupied areas of Ukraine are striking further fear into the hearts of parents as they ship in teachers from the former Soviet Union – and terrifyingly spy on families through school apps.
Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, spokesperson for Ukraine’s territorial defence forces, said families are also being starved and denied medicine and food unless they take Russian passports.
Junior sergeant Sarah told The Sun: “In the occupied regions, school teachers are forced to collaborate in brainwashing pupils with an anti Ukraine agenda or Russian teachers are shipped in as replacements.
“In the Donetsk area families who don’t send their kids to these schools are visited by Russian FSB officers who threaten to deny them basics such as food and medicine unless their children get back in the classroom.
“They have no choice. Any welfare state has collapsed, people are ruled by tyranny.
“We have intelligence from sources in the resistance that Donetsk parents are also being forced into downloading so-called school apps on their phones which are, in reality, tracking software.
“Theoretically, the apps are there to communicate with teachers but in reality it ensures the Russians can track parents’ movements and hack into messages to monitor them. It’s spyware.
“What is happening to children in Ukraine is beyond horrific. They are being taken from their parents and held in Russian schools and ‘summer camps’.
“The Russians claim they are taking kids away from war but children are essentially being held as hostages and being brainwashed.
“Hearing these stories is so hard but we are fighting for the best of humanity. Putin might take the children but Ukraine will never give in to this tyrannical evil.”
On August 13, 500 children were officially reported to have been killed during the invasion.
Save the Children says child casualties in Ukraine increased by more than seven per cent between May and August compared to the previous four months as air and drone attacks tripled – with no end in sight.
June was the deadliest month for kids with 11 killed and 43 injured. In total 24 have lost their lives over the summer.
Mykola Kuleba, of the Save Ukraine charity, recently told the United Nations: “Our children are not weapons or shields, they are just little children who have the right to a happy childhood.”
Thousands more kids have been effectively abducted and taken to the sinister Russian brainwashing camps.
In July alone 280 children were kidnapped from the annexed Antratsytiv district in Luhansk. Few have escaped.
Vitaliy Vertash, 16, spent six months in a camp in annexed Crimea after being told he was going on a two-week holiday camp with his school.
He feared he would never see his mum Inessa again but was released in March this year after she got help from an organisation which works to free children.
Vitaliy, from the Kherson city of Beryslav, described how children were forced to live in basements, banned from speaking their native language, get up for 7am parades and listen to the Russian national anthem for hours.
He told the Ukrainian Children of War state portal for missing and displaced children: “There were absolutely zero conditions for living there.
“They (camp bosses) told us we needed to forget the Ukrainian language. They said ‘you are here like in an orphanage, your parents don’t need you’.”
Vitality said the camp leader burned the Ukrainian flag in front of pupils who lived in basements beneath ‘schools’ and were put into isolation if they put up a fight.
He said: “Many children cried because the counsellors beat them. They locked them in a room and shouted at them with cuss words, hit them with sticks and forced them to clean the corridors. They fed us like dogs.”
Another teen, named only as Zhenia, told the organisation: “They told us straight out and said, ‘You are here like a prison. You have no opinion’.
“Every day there was a so-called gathering in front of the school and we were forced to stand for the Russian national anthem.”
Meatballs made of ‘waste’
Friend Taya, who was also in the camp, told how the camp leader enjoyed tormenting the children.
She said: “He said all Ukranians were Khokhols (a Russian slang word for Ukranians). He called us Nazis, fascists.
“The food portions were small. The meatballs were made as if from waste. You would feel bad after eating them, nauseated.”
Sickeningly, Russia gives its Nazi-style re-education camps names like dream, friendship and radiant. Hundreds of kids have been taken to a boarding school in Perevalsk in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.
Putin’s child-snatching operation is run by his ‘children’s right’s commissioner’, Maria Lvov Belova.
She claims she is running a humanitarian evacuation for Ukraine’s kids – but the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for her arrest.
Many children have been separated from or lost family in the war, making it easier for Belova to spirit them away to Russia ,where over 300 have already been adopted by Soviet families.
Putin’s evil soldiers have shown no mercy to the children of Ukraine as the war rages on and many, like Vitaliy Mukharsky, have been held in jails.
His mum Natalia was left terrified, not knowing whether her son was alive or or dead before he was freed when their village near Kherson was liberated in September last year, after eight months of Russian occupation.
Vitaliy said: “I am scared that the occupiers will come and take me away again.”
Forced to clean torture rooms
Another Ukrainian teen, Vladislav Buryak was just 16 when he was forced to clean up torture rooms after being detained by Russians while fleeing his home in Melitipol in southeast Ukraine.
He was threatened with being shot after a twisted Russian soldier spotted him watching the news on his phone amid the evacuation of his city along a ‘humanitarian corridor’ in April 2022.
Vladislav, now 17, told how he was thrown into a three by two metre cell and heard the screams of fellow Ukranians being tortured.
When a cell mate slit his wrists following days of torture, Vladislav says he was told to clean up the blood.
He said: “They tortured him with electricity. They beat him very hard with brass knuckles and guns and kicked him. They took off his pants and hit him on the genitalia with a stun gun.
“After three days he simply lost his mind.”
The teen says he is haunted by what he saw in a Russian torture room he was forced to clean.
He said: “I saw a person suspended by his hands from the ceiling by wires.
“Not only was the whole floor covered with blood under this man but there was a small bucket next to him, maybe about 500ml or one litre, and it was entirely full of blood.
“Next to him in this room was a Russian military (man) calmly recording his testimony.”
Vladislav spent 90 days behind bars before being freed.
He said: “The heart seems to understand (that I’m free) but the brain won’t let go.”
Experts have warned Ukrainian children face years of trauma while Unicef says an estimated 1.5 million kids are at risk of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.