Home Europe Russia executed Ukrainian POWs, UN report says

Russia executed Ukrainian POWs, UN report says

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Russia may have executed more than 30 recently captured Ukrainian prisoners of war over the winter months, according to reports received by the U.N. human rights watchdog.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights “verified three of these incidents in which Russian servicemen executed seven Ukrainian servicemen hors de combat,” reads the latest U.N. report on the human rights situation in Ukraine published Tuesday.

From December to February, as President Vladimir Putin’s invading Russian forces were rapidly advancing in Avdiivka, in the Donetsk region, and attempting to recapture Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region, dozens of execution videos were posted on social media.

In eight of the reported cases, videos showed Russian servicemen killing Ukrainian POWs who had laid down their weapons or using other captured Ukrainian POWs as human shields.

“As of 29 February 2024, OHCHR had obtained corroborating information for one of the videos,” the report reads. “In that video, what appears to be a group of armed Russian soldiers stands 15-20 meters behind three Ukrainian servicemen who are kneeling with their hands behind their heads. After a few seconds, smoke appears from the Russian soldiers’ weapons and the Ukrainian servicemen fall to the ground.”

“One of the armed soldiers then approaches the bodies and shoots at one of the soldiers lying on the ground,” according to the report.

Over the winter Russia also released 60 Ukrainian POWs. One of them confirmed to OHCHR that the incident featured in the video took place near Robotyne in December 2023 and that the killed servicemen were from his unit.

In another incident, three Ukrainian POWs, captured by Russian troops, were executed at the beginning of January 2024 in Zaporizhzhia.

“According to a witness, two Ukrainian soldiers were executed on the spot after their surrender. Russian servicemen killed a third Ukrainian POW who had been injured by a mine while being forced by the Russian servicemen to conduct demining work,” the report states.

The released POWs also told the U.N. that Russian forces had tortured them in captivity.

“In one case, a Ukrainian POW described being captured by Russian armed forces in November 2023 in Zaporizhzhia region and brought to a shed in a private household, where three Russian servicemen interrogated and tortured him to extract information of a military nature,” the report reads. “The perpetrators kicked him in the face and torso with such force that his ribs were broken, suffocated him with a plastic bag, and threatened to execute him and to cut off his ear while pressing a knife against it.”

According to the report, 39 of the 60 POWs also “disclosed that they had been subjected to sexual violence during their internment, including attempted rape, threats of rape and castration, beatings or the administration of electric shocks to genitals, and repeated forced nudity, including during interrogations and to check for tattoos.” 

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