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HRW: Russia executes surrendering Ukrainian soldiers in possible war crimes

by Martin Fornusek May 2, 2024 11:24 AM 2 min read
Screenshot from the video of the Russian execution of Ukrainian POWs on Feb. 24, 2024. (Prosecutor General's Office/Telegram)
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Since last December, Russian forces likely executed at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers who tried to surrender and possibly six who were already surrendering or had surrendered, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on May 2.

"These incidents should be investigated as war crimes," the NGO's statement read.

Over the past months, footage of several instances capturing Russian soldiers killing and surrendering Ukrainian soldiers has emerged online.

"Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, its forces have committed many heinous war crimes," said Belkis Wille, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW.

"The summary execution – or murder – of surrendering and injured Ukrainian soldiers, gunned down in cold blood, expressly forbidden under international humanitarian law, is also included in that shameful legacy."

HRW's statement mentions five incidents of group executions of Ukrainian soldiers by Russian troops, which the NGO investigated based on drone footage posted on social media, media coverage, and interviews.

The aforementioned incidents took place on Dec. 2 and Dec. 27 last year, as well as on Feb. 16, 19, and 25 of 2024 in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Collected evidence indicates that the Ukrainian soldiers were trying to surrender or had surrendered.

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War Notes

Audio in some of the collected footage also captures orders by Russian soldiers not to take prisoners.

"Guys, kill everyone, the second (Ukrainian soldier) is wounded, shoot him from atop, shoot him, take no prisoners," one recorded voice said.

These are not the first executions of Ukrainian soldiers documented by international and Ukrainian organizations throughout the full-scale war.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office said on April 9 that at least 54 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) had been summarily executed by Russian soldiers during the war.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported back in March that it has documented at least 32 Ukrainian POWs being executed.

In a particularly deadly incident, over 50 Ukrainian military prisoners were killed in the Russian-occupied Olenivka in Donetsk Oblast in July 2022. According to Kyiv, Russia likely blew up the prison with a thermobaric munition.

Moscow has denied responsibility and blamed a Ukrainian HIMARS strike for the incident, but both the U.N. and Kyiv have rejected this version of events.

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