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Since December 2023, Russians execute at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers who were trying to surrender – HRW

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Since December 2023, Russians execute at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers who were trying to surrender – HRW

The international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found that since December 2023, Russian troops have presumably executed at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers who were trying to surrender, and possibly six more who were about to surrender or had already surrendered. Human rights activists emphasised that these cases should be investigated as war crimes.

Source: the HRW report published on 2 May

Quote: „Human Rights Watch investigated three instances of the apparent summary execution of at least 12 Ukrainian soldiers by verifying and analyzing drone footage posted on social media on December 2 and December 27, and on February 25, 2024. In these cases, the soldiers demonstrated a clear intent to surrender and, since they were no longer taking part in hostilities, were considered hors de combat and not targetable under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.“

Details: Human rights activists identified the locations where two of the three incidents took place, but due to the lack of accurate geo-data in the videos, they were unable to establish the exact location of the third one. Human Rights Watch was also unable to determine who owned the drone that was filming the incident.

HRW also verified the fourth case by analysing another video that appeared on social media on 19 February. It shows two Russian soldiers shooting three unarmed Ukrainian soldiers who had surrendered. Although the owner of the account where the video was posted indicated the location of the incident, Human Rights Watch was unable to independently verify it.

The investigation into the fifth incident was based on an interview with a Ukrainian soldier, a video posted on a Telegram channel on 16 February, and media reports, including interviews with family members of one of the deceased. Six soldiers were reportedly executed in this case, although the circumstances of the incident were less clear.

In one of the five incidents that took place on 25 February, a verified drone video, which was widely posted online, including on X (Twitter), shows at least seven Ukrainian soldiers emerging from a dugout located among trees between two fields, removing their body armour, and at least one removing his helmet. All of them lie face down, and five Russian soldiers aim their machine guns at them. The Russian soldiers can be identified by the clearly visible red bandages on their arms and legs. The three Russian soldiers then shoot from behind and on both sides in the direction of the Ukrainian soldiers, who have apparently surrendered.

Six Ukrainian soldiers remain face down, visibly reacting to the shots, while one tries to return to the dugout but is hit by a bullet before he can. The incident took place near the village of Ivanivske in Donetsk Oblast. The exact location was first confirmed by GeoConfirmed volunteer EjShahid, and later by Human Rights Watch researchers.

Human Rights Watch noted that „the apparent executions do not appear to be isolated instances.“

Human Rights Watch researchers also identified a Russian drone video released on 5 February 2024 that shows a single moment of the battle. In this case, Human Rights Watch researchers were unable to determine whether Ukrainian soldiers surrendered, but a male voice heard in the video, which is not in obvious doubt as to its authenticity, appears to be giving orders to Russian soldiers during the battle in Donetsk Oblast. The voice says in Russian: „Take no prisoners, shoot everyone!“ The audiovisual analysis of the video footage confirms the conclusion that it was a Russian drone.


Earlier, Yurii Bielousov, Chief of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Department for Combating Crimes Committed during Armed Conflicts, said that the Prosecutor General’s Office had 27 criminal cases related to the killing of Ukrainian prisoners of war by the Russians, involving the murder of 54 soldiers.
The Prosecutor General’s Office cooperates with the International Criminal Court, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, intelligence agencies, and non-governmental organisations that also collect information.

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