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Russian military accused of ‘executing’ Ukrainian surrenderers

  • HRW report alleges Russian forces executed surrendering Ukrainian soldiers
  • Investigations suggest war crimes; call for accountability
  • UN reports torture, executions of Ukrainian detainees by Russia

According to a new report by an international rights organization, it appears that Ukrainian soldiers who attempted to surrender or had already surrendered since December 2023 were executed by Russian forces. 

According to a report released on Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW), an investigation into the actions should be conducted as war crimes. 

The organization investigated five occurrences of what it termed “apparent summary executions” of at least fifteen Ukrainian soldiers attempting to surrender, and potentially six more between December 2023 and February 2024

Senior researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Belkis Wille, asserts that since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, its forces have perpetrated numerous heinous war crimes. 

“In addition to this disgraceful legacy is the summary execution, or murder, of wounded and surrendering Ukrainian soldiers, which was explicitly prohibited by international humanitarian law and resulted in their bloodshed.” 

Analysis of drone footage and social media videos, interviews with Ukrainian soldiers, and media reports were utilized by the rights watchdog, which added that it was unable to corroborate the locations of certain incidents. 

The report stated, “It does not seem that the apparent executions are isolated incidents.” 

The report referenced an incident that occurred on February 25th, in which drone footage published on X seemingly captured a minimum of seven Ukrainian soldiers emerging from a dugout while reclining facedown and removing their body armour, with one soldier even removing his helmet. Five Russian soldiers were observed aiming and firing upon the soldiers. 

According to the report, additional footage obtained from the front lines in the Donetsk region purportedly recorded a Russian commander instructing his forces to “shoot everyone and take no prisoners.” 

By comparing the colours of their military fatigues and the usage of identification tape (blue for Ukraine and white or red for Russia), the researchers were able to distinguish between Russian and Ukrainian forces. 

Russia was charged with war crimes by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office in December, following the dissemination of a pixelated video on social media that seemingly showed multiple soldiers engaging in gunfire with two military personnel who were surrendering and emerged from a dugout at gunpoint.

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According to HRW, Ukrainian authorities are conducting approximately 27 separate investigations into similar allegations. 

Separately, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported in March allegations that between December 2023 and February 2024, at least 32 Ukrainian detainees were executed in 12 separate incidents. 

The mission further reported that sixty Ukrainian soldiers who had been released had been subjected to torture, which included repeated beatings, electric shocks, threats of execution, protracted stress positions, simulated executions, and sexual violence. 

The UN group also reported that civilians in Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia were subjected to arbitrary executions, detention, and restrictions on their freedom of expression. 

War crimes committed by Russia during its conflict in Ukraine are denied. It ratifies the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the execution of captives of war. 

In the past, Ukraine has also been accused of soldiers having casually executed Russian forces. 

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