Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Russian POWs Ukraine

Russian prisoners of war appear during a media briefing in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Photo: Pavlo Bagmut/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Rights Group Says Ukraine Torture or Killing of Russian POWs Would Be Clear 'War Crime'

"All the information in the videos that suggests abuse, and maybe worse, of POWs needs to be subject to an effective investigation."

Brett Wilkins

A leading international human rights group said Thursday that if genuine, unverified videos showing Ukrainian troops shooting Russian prisoners of war would depict war crimes, while calling on Ukraine to "ensure an effective investigation" into the alleged abuse.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that "if confirmed, the beating and shooting of captured combatants in their legs would constitute a war crime, and Ukraine needs to demonstrate that it is able and willing to prevent and punish serious violations of international humanitarian law."

HRW senior legal adviser Aisling Reidy said that "all the information in the videos that suggests abuse, and maybe worse, of POWs needs to be subject to an effective investigation. It should be possible to verify if abuse took place, and from there to hold those responsible to account."

The incident appears to have occurred at a dairy farm in a village near Kharkiv two days after Ukrainian forces retook the area. The videos were posted on social media late last month. On March 28, Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov published video recorded at the same dairy farm showing the charred remains of what appeared to be people in Russian military uniforms. It is not known if they are the same soldiers who appeared in the previous videos.

Ukrainian officials said the videos would be investigated. Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) published a statement suggesting the videos could be "directly managed by Russian special services," and that prisoners of war taken by Ukrainian forces "are treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention."

Russian "occupiers spread fakes to divert attention from their atrocities," SSU said. "Russian fakes are similar to Russian TV series: cheap, vulgar, predictable, and with poor acting."

However, experts consulted by HRW said the videos showing the men being shot were consistent with wounds caused by gunshots.

Olexiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said March 27 on Telegram that he "would like to remind all our military, civilian, and defense forces once again that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime that has no amnesty under military law and has no statute of limitations."

Since invading Ukraine in late February, Russian forces have been accused of war crimes including bombing residential areas with cluster munitions; attacking humanitarian corridors and civilian infrastructure including homes, medical facilities, schools, and shelters; shooting unarmed civilians; torture; sex crimes; and kidnapping and forcibly deporting civilians.

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan announced four days into the invasion that he was launching a probe of "alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity" committed in Ukraine.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Organized Whitewash': US Claims Israeli Military's Murder of Journalist Not Intentional

"The odds that those responsible for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh will be held to account are all but nonexistent," said the human rights group B'Tselem in response to findings of U.S. State Department.

Brett Wilkins ·

Hundreds March in Akron Enraged by Police Killing of Jayland Walker

"The police can do whatever they want," said one local resident through tears. "They can take our children's lives and think it's okay."

Julia Conley ·

'The Problem is Corporate Greed, Boss': Bezos Blasted for Defense of Big Oil Price-Gouging

'Bezos scared," said one progressive economist after the world's second-richest person went to bat for Big Oil.

Jon Queally ·

Bodycam Footage Shows Ohio Police Shooting Jayland Walker 60+ Times

"The Department of Justice needs to step in to investigate immediately," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

Common Dreams staff ·

'Impeach Justice Clarence Thomas' Petition Nears 1 Million Signatures

"He has shown he cannot be an impartial justice and is more concerned with covering up his wife's coup attempts than the health of the Supreme Court," reads the petition.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo