Scandalous videos, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the New York Times, appeared on social networks last week. They raised countless question marks. And the question that everyone is asking these days is – Did the Ukrainians kill Russian prisoners?
Russia accused Ukraine of executing Russian prisoners of war. The reason for this is a scandalous video showing the bodies of several uniformed soldiers lying on the ground in a village yard. The attacked lie down and surrender, leaving their weapons aside. Another video shows them being shot.
Killing or wounding a combatant who has laid down his weapon and surrendered is a war crime.
The New York Times confirmed the authenticity of the videos.
They were distributed by Ukrainian news channels and social network profiles. Ukrainians use them to boast of military might and recapture of territories lost to the war.
The result is mutual accusations between Moscow and Kyiv.
The UN said the case should be investigated.
Ukraine will also investigate the case. This was stated by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna. “Of course, we will investigate the video,” she said, as quoted by the Associated Press. However, it is “unlikely” that the edited videos prove the Russian side’s claims, she added.
According to Stefanyshyn, the Ukrainian forces are “absolutely not interested in executing anyone”, and the orders are to take “as many prisoners as possible” to be exchanged with Russia.
Ukraine’s European Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lyubinets, said Russian soldiers opened fire during the act of surrender.
The murders took place at the time when the Ukrainian army retook the village of Makeevka. Around November 12th.
The New York Times compared the videos to satellite images and confirmed they were not tampered with.
The unfortunate situation was filmed by an anonymous Ukrainian soldier and by a drone owned by Ukrainian forces.
“It looks like most of them were shot in the head,” Dr. Rohini Haar, medical adviser for Physicians for Human Rights, said in an interview.
“There are pools of blood. It shows they were just dumped there dead. There was no attempt to pick them up or help them.”
Dr. Haar notes that when they surrendered, the Russian servicemen were on the ground, apparently unarmed. They were considered non-combatants — effectively prisoners of war,” Dr. Haar told The New York Times.
The Rome Statute, the international treaty that created the International Criminal Court, could charge this under several of its articles if Ukraine were a party to the treaty, Dr. Haar said, including Article 8b (vi), which reads: “The killing or wounding of a combatant who, having laid down his arms or having no more means of defense, has voluntarily surrendered,” is a violation of the laws of international armed conflict.
Iva Vukušić, an expert on war crimes prosecutions at Utrecht University, said it was difficult to determine whether or not a war crime had been committed based on the video footage alone, and that the decisive factor was the timing of when the Russians were shot.
“If these military personnel have not been searched yet, then the Ukrainians have no way of knowing if they are armed, even if they are on the ground.”
The Makeevka videos sparked outrage among Russian pro-war commentators. Vladlen Tatarsky, a popular activist and blogger, said in a post on the Telegram social messaging app that every Russian “should watch this several times to understand who we are fighting against” and that “no Russian can live and sleep peacefully ” while the perpetrators are alive.
In its Friday news broadcast, Channel One, Russia’s state television network, said the videos were proof that the government in Kyiv was committing war crimes. It featured Vladimir Kornilov, a political scientist who stated that “Ukraine is never accused of war crimes because it kills Russians.” In a report by another state network, Rossiya-1, the West was accused of “organizing silence” on Ukrainian war crimes.
The Russian Human Rights Council said it would send the video to international organizations. The country’s Investigative Committee, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI, launched a criminal investigation into the meeting.