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.

Russian soldiers post video showing mock execution and other torment of Ukrainian prisoners of war

Halya Coynash
Russia has dropped any attempt to prevent its fighters from posting incriminating evidence. On the contrary, it appears to be deliberately flaunting appalling war crimes against captured Ukrainian defenders

Screenshots from the video posted on 2 June 2024. The Russian standing over a Ukrainian defender then stages a mock execution

Screenshots from the video posted on 2 June 2024. The Russian standing over a Ukrainian defender then stages a mock execution

Ukraine’s public prosecutor has initiated a war crimes probe following publication of a video apparently showing Ukrainian prisoners of war being beaten, humiliated, threatened, and subjected to a mock execution.  The men’s treatment is in flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and is especially shocking since the Russian perpetrators, who know they are being videoed, are clearly convinced of their own impunity.

The investigation, under the procedural control of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, will be carried out by the SBU [Security Service] under Article 438 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code (violation of the laws and practice of war).  Assuming that the video is proven to be authentic, it should be relatively easy to identify the Russians involved, given that one of them speaks openly to the camera.  In reposting the video on 2 June, Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson Dmytro Lubinets said that it was believed to be from somewhere on the Kharkiv front where the Russians have been waging an offensive since 10 May.  Lubinets wrote that he had sent official letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN asking them to document this as “the latest evident of the violation of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation”.  It should, he wrote, supplement the evidence for a future tribunal against the criminals.

This is, undoubtedly, important, but it would also be appropriate for the International Committee of the Red Cross to publicly demand access to the Ukrainian POWs.  It is their right and duty to visit imprisoned combatants, and lack of publicity and pressure on Russia only increases the impunity that individual Russian fighters clearly believe they enjoy.

Prior to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia had taken considerable measures to stop Russian fighters from providing valuable evidence of war crimes on social media.  Such video and photographic footage was, for example, valuable in getting to the truth about the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 by a Russian BUK missile over occupied Donbas on 17 July 2014. 

The ban on social media usage appears to have been forgotten, or deliberately waived.  It is likely that Moscow’s aim with all of the videos shocking summary executions and / or torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war is to demoralize Ukrainian defenders, with this deemed more important than any concerns about accountability.  

Russia has blocked any investigation into the almost certainly deliberate explosion which killed over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war at Olenivka prison during the night from 28-29 July 2022.  Its torture and ill-treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war have been recognized as “systematic and widespread” by international bodies, who have also condemned its fake ‘trials’ and horrific sentences of Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

Since November 2023, the number of cases where Ukrainian POWs have been killed in cold blood has risen dramatically, and there are also videos which seem to show the Russians using Ukrainian POWs as human shields.


UN records 32 summary executions by Russia of Ukrainian prisoners of war since December

Ukraine initiates war crimes probe after Russians kill unarmed Ukrainian POWs in Kherson oblast

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