Russia troops accused of ‘executing’ surrendering Ukraine soldiers: Report

Human Rights Watch investigates ‘apparent summary executions’ and says actions could amount to war crimes.

A new report by an international rights group says Russian forces appear to have ‘summarily executed’ Ukrainian soldiers as they attempted to surrender [Yulia Morozova/Reuters]Published On 2 May 20242 May 2024

Russian forces appear to have executed Ukrainian soldiers as they attempted to surrender or had already surrendered since December 2023, an international rights group has said in a new report.

The actions should be investigated as war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in the report published on Thursday.

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The group probed five incidents of what it called the “apparent summary executions” of at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers as they attempted to surrender, and possibly six more who were surrendering or who had surrendered between December 2023 and February 2024.

“Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, its forces have committed many heinous war crimes,” said Belkis Wille, a senior researcher 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.”

The rights watchdog said it relied on analysis of drone footage and videos on social media, interviews with Ukrainian soldiers, and media reports, but added that it could not confirm the locations of some of the incidents.

It noted that the “apparent executions do not appear to be isolated instances”.

It cited one incident on February 25 when drone footage shared on X appeared to show at least seven Ukrainian soldiers coming out of a dugout removing their body armour – one soldier even removing his helmet, and all lying face down as five Russian soldiers aimed and fired at them.

In other footage captured on the front lines in the Donetsk region, a Russian commander seemed to have told his troops: “Take no prisoners, shoot everyone,” according to the report.

The researchers differentiated between Russian and Ukrainian troops by observing the use of each side’s identification tape – blue for Ukraine and white or red for Russia – as well as the different colours of their military fatigues.

In December, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office accused Russia of committing war crimes after a grainy video on social media appeared to show several soldiers shooting two surrendering military personnel who emerged from a dugout at gunpoint.

Ukrainian authorities are conducting about 27 separate investigations into similar allegations, HRW said.

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

Findings from 60 released Ukrainian soldiers, the mission added, showed they had been tortured using repeated beatings, electric shocks, threats of execution, prolonged stress positions, mock executions and sexual violence.

Civilians in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory were also subject to arbitrary killings, detention, and restricted freedoms of expression, the UN group said.

Russia denies committing war crimes during its war in Ukraine. It is a party to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid killing prisoners of war.

Ukraine has in the past also faced allegations that its soldiers summarily killed Russian troops.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies