New evidence of Russia killing Ukrainian prisoners of war in cold blood
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General a war crime investigation after another video emerged that appears to show Ukrainian prisoners of war being shot after they had surrendered. If the video is found to be authentic, this will be yet further proof of Russia killing Ukrainian prisoners of war in cold blood, a grave violation of the Third Geneva Convention.
The investigation is to be carried out by the Zaporizhzhia Regional Department of the Security Service [SBU] and is under Article 438 § 2 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code (violation of the rules and practice of war, linked with deliberate homicide). The videos on various Telegram channels were posted on 27 December, however the exact date does not appear to be known. At least one of the reports, however, that the Ukrainian soldiers were from the 117th Separate Mechanized Brigade. According to the investigators, Russian soldiers took the three Ukrainians prisoner during a clash near Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia oblast and killed them an hour later, with this a clear extrajudicial execution and flagrant violation of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. This clearly stipulates that prisoners of war who have laid down their arms must be treated humanely and most categorically must not be killed.
This is the second investigation into such apparent extrajudicial executions of Ukrainian prisoners of war in December 2023 alone. On 2 December, a video was posted which appeared to show two unarmed Ukrainian prisoners of war being shot and killed by the Russians. In reporting that a war crimes investigation (also under Article 438 § 2) had been initiated, the Prosecutor General that a preliminary study of the video had placed it near the village of Stepove in Pokrovsk raion (Donetsk oblast).
In April 2023, the notorious Rusich unit, founded by Russian neoNazi war criminals Alexei Milchakov and Jan Petrovsky, and now associated with the Wagner mercenary unit, posted a video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war on 12 April. The caption said that there would be many more such videos.
On 6 March 2023, a video was posted showing a Ukrainian soldier, unarmed and smoking a cigarette. He was shot dead, apparently for saying ‘Glory to Ukraine!”. The soldier is believed to have been Oleksandr Matsiievsky, who was killed, in such an extrajudicial execution, on 30 December 2022, while defending Bakhmut.
On 14 December 2023, the Prosecutor General also launched an investigation into evidence that Russia had used Ukrainian prisoners of war as human shields, another war crime, strictly prohibited by the same Geneva Convention. This was only the latest of many cases since 2014 where Russia has used either prisoners of war or civilians as human shields (details here).
Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war is in horrific violation of international law and needs robust measures from the International Criminal Court and other international bodies now. There is considerable evidence that the killing of over 50 Ukrainian political prisoners at the Russian-controlled Olenivka ‘concentration camp’ in Donetsk oblast was a deliberate act, as is Russia’s blocking of any international investigation. As well as systematic torture, used sometimes merely for ‘entertainment’, Russia is also torturing prisoners of war to extract ‘confessions’, effectively to Russia’s own war crimes, and is then ‘sentencing’ the Ukrainians taken prisoner for defending their country to 25, 30 years, or life imprisonment.