war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia is illegally imprisoning over 500 Ukrainian medics in horrific conditions

Halya Coynash
Marianna Mamonova was finally released, after six months in captivity, just in time for the birth of her baby. Very many others remain imprisoned

Free the medics whom Russia is holding prisoner Screenshot from a Military Medics of Ukraine video

Free the medics whom Russia is holding prisoner Screenshot from a Military Medics of Ukraine video

The Russian invaders are holding both military and civilian doctors and other medical workers prisoner, in flagrant violation of international law.  According to Andriy Kryvtsov, head of the NGO Military Medics of Ukraine, the Russians hold all these hostages in appalling conditions.

The 1949 Geneva Convention, which Russia has agreed to bide by, and the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Convention, could not be clearer.  Medical personal are persons assigned exclusively to medical duties, with this including, not only doctors and nurses, but also those involved in the search for, collection, transportation, diagnosis, or treatment of the wounded or sick (Article 25 of the Convention).   All such medical personnel are entitled to the protection and treatment stipulated by international law, may not be the object of violence, and if they fall into enemy hands are not considered as prisoners of war and must be set free.”   International humanitarian law does allow for medical personnel being retained to care for prisoners of war.  This, and the additional note, “preferably those belonging to the armed forces upon which they depend" would appear to have always provoked argument

In this case, however, it is the least of the problems since Russia is illegally imprisoning medical personnel, including very many civilians.  Nor is it complying with international law in its treatment of prisoners of war, since these are not held in separate POW camps, but in ordinary prisons.

Kryvtsov points out that by seizing and imprisoning even the drivers of armoured vehicles who are transporting the wounded, Russia is deliberately trying to maximise both the number of deaths and the suffering that wounded Ukrainian defenders endure.

He says that military medics, who have been finally released in exchanges, report that they were not provided with medication and were tortured and ill-treated.

Marianna Mamonova, a military medic who was sent to Mariupol when Russia began its full-scale invasion, was among the medical personnel moved to the Illich Iron and Steel Works after the Russians bombed Hospital No. 555.  Both medical personnel and wounded were taken prisoner by the Russians on 12 April. 

The head of her unit informed the invaders immediately that the young doctor was pregnant.  The Russians themselves claimed that they weren’t “beast” and would not hold a pregnant woman prisoner.  That, however, was in April 2022, and they only released her in late September, shortly before the birth of her daughter, Anna. 

From the Military Medics of Ukraine video

From the Military Medics of Ukraine video

She has since explained that her pregnancy saved her, although mainly because of the woman prisoners held with her.  As soon as they realized that she was expecting a baby, they began sharing whatever scant food they had. 

The Russians took at least 100 military medics who had been stationed either at the Illich Factory or the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol prisoner.  Russia is fully aware that this is in violation of international law, and for some time would not even acknowledge that the medics were imprisoned.

Some other women medics (including Andriy Kryvtsov’s sister-in-law Olena Kryvtsova) whose imprisonment was earlier reported were, finally, released.  This was only as the result of exchanges of prisoners, although, as medical personnel, none should have been held prisoner at all.

The invaders had also refused to provide safe passage out of Azovstal for hundreds of civilians sheltering from Russian bombs.  On 8 May 2022, they finally allowed 4-year-old Alisa to leave the besieged steelworks together with civilians, but separated her from her mother, Viktoria Obidina, a military doctor.  Obidina was only finally released in October 2022. 

Many others remain imprisoned or have been taken prisoner since.  They include Serhiy Doroshenko who worked as a paediatrician in Mariupol before Russia’s full-scale invasion.  He joined the Mariupol Territorial Defence the day after the full-scale invasion, and was sent to serve as a doctor, at Hospital No. 555 – one of the huge, and ever-mounting number of medical establishments that the Russians have bombed.

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