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.

Russians kill unarmed and wounded Ukrainian prisoners of war near Avdiivka

Halya Coynash
It is unclear whether the Russians hope that the two separate videos from near Avdiivka and Vesele will demoralize Ukraine’s defenders or whether they simply like boasting of their barbaric war crimes

From left Ivan Zhytnyk, Andriy Dubnytsky, Heorhiy Pavlov, from the photos posted by Slidstvo

From left Ivan Zhytnyk, Andriy Dubnytsky, Heorhiy Pavlov, from the photos posted by Slidstvo

On two separate occasions in Donetsk oblast, Russian soldiers appear to have shot and killed unarmed Ukrainian prisoners of war.  Ukraine’s prosecutor has initiated criminal investigations into both of what, if confirmed, would unequivocally constitute war crimes.

On 18 February, Ukraine’s Ground Forces posted satellite footage which appeals to show a Russian soldier walking up to two Ukrainian prisoners of war and shooting them at close range.  This was, they wrote, the latest demonstration by the Russian invaders of their contempt for international humanitarian law.  A spokesperson for the Khortysia Operational Strategic Forces later informed Ukrainska Pravda that the Ukrainian defenders had been shot near the village of Vesele (Donetsk oblast).  

On that same day, war correspondent Yury Butusov and reported that the Russians had shot at and probably killed six  wounded prisoners of war near Avdiivka.  Butusov posted a list with six names of seriously wounded Ukrainian defenders from the 110th Brigade of Ukraine’s Armed Forces who had remained at the Zenith stronghold near Avdiivka on 14 February as they could not move without help and there were no vehicles available to evacuate them.  Zenith became totally surrounded by the invaders and there ceased to be any possibility of rescuing them.  A video was posted by the Russians on 16 February showing the bodies of five Ukrainian soldiers piled into the water near the stronghold.  Relatives had recognized the bodies of three of the men: Andriy Dubnytsky; 29-year-old Heorhiy Pavlov and Ivan Zhytnyk (30).  Butusov explained that the other three bodies were not possible to recognize from the video footage, but it certainly does appear that the Russians killed six prisoners of war, at least five of whom had been unable to retreat due to grave injuries.

Nastia Stanko from was told by Liudmyla, the wife of Andriy Dubnytsky (nom de guerre ‘Baraktar’) that she had recognized his body by the tattoo visible on the video (with a fellow soldier from the Brigade also recognizing the tattoo).  Liudmyla had spoken with her husband last at 10 a.m. about his wounds.  They had then texted each other, with Andriy’s last message at 12.00 when he wrote that they would be taken prisoner.

Andriy had been called up on 8 March 2022, and had from the beginning been stationed in Avdiivka.  His daughter was just four months old when he was mobilized.

Kateryna had spoken with her brother, Ivan Zhytnyk (‘Django’) a few days earlier.  He had told her that he was wounded and had remained at the stronghold together with four other members of the Brigade with injuries, as well as a sixth man who was not wounded but had opted to stay with his comrades.

They had been told to wait for a vehicle to evacuate them, she said, but none had come, and after a day and a half they become phoning people.  Her brother had told her that he was in excruciating pain, and that they had used up any painkillers, and that they were running out of medication and food.

During a video call to Ivan that afternoon, Kateryna’s brother-in-law saw Russians coming in and telling the Ukrainians to get up and leave, “we’re not going to carry you”.  He also heard them tell Ivan to switch off his phone. 

Slidstvo also spoke with Inna, the mother of Heorhiy Pavlov (‘Panda’}.  She too had spoken with her son earlier and says that initially he was himself not wounded, but that he had been injured on 14 February, with shrapnel wounds to the back.  She had pleaded with him to surrender, she says, and spoke of his small son, Andriusha, who was only five.  Heorhiy had replied, “Mama, I’m a soldier". 

It is clear that the Ukrainian defenders were wounded and had no means, nor intention of resisting.  Since the bodies of five soldiers in Ukrainian military uniform, including Andriy Dubnytsky, Heorhiy Pavlov and Ivan Zhytnyk were posted in a Russian video on 16 February, it seems near certain that the Russians killed unarmed and gravely wounded prisoners of war in cold blood, with this in gross violation of international law.  Both of the above investigations are under Article 438 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code (war crimes).

This, unfortunately, comes only a week after another investigation was initiated over the apparent killing by the Russian invaders of two other Ukrainian defenders, one of whom was shot and killed as he came towards the invaders with his hands in the air.  They then, reportedly, killed a second Ukrainian by hurling a grenade into his dugout. No names were given on that occasion but the killings were on 9 February near the village of Klishchiivka (Donetsk oblast), with the Russians once again posting the video on social media.

See also:  New evidence of Russia killing Ukrainian prisoners of war in cold blood

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