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Ukrainian ombudsman calls on UN to investigate executions at Zenit stronghold

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Russian troops in Ukraine. Image by Ukrainska Pravda
Ukrainian ombudsman calls on UN to investigate executions at Zenit stronghold

Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets has sent letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (the ICRC) and the United Nations (the UN), calling the organizations to investigate the execution of wounded Ukrainian soldiers by Russian troops at the “Zenit” stronghold in Avdiivka.

On 16 February, Ukraine’s forces retreated from Zenit, a critical defensive position in the south of Avdiivka, to save the lives of its military personnel and improve the operational situation.

A day later, Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi announced the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka since the Russian-renewed assault on the city in October 2023.

On 19 February, the 110th Separate Mechanised Brigade named after Marko Bezruchko, which had been defending Avdiivka, reported that wounded Ukrainian soldiers who were surrounded in the Zenit defense position were shot by the Russians despite a promise to evacuate them.

According to Lubinets, the evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from Avdiivka occurred under continuous bombardment by the Russian army. Evacuation routes and vehicles were repeatedly shelled. Still, severely wounded and killed soldiers were successfully evacuated. However, due to the intense assaults of the Russian invaders, there were no chances for further evacuation attempts, said the ombudsman.

Lubinets added that after the complete encirclement of the “Zenit” stronghold, the Ukrainian military command decided to engage with the coordination center and organizations negotiating with the Russian side. The appeals focused on providing assistance to wounded Ukrainian unarmed soldiers, following international laws and rules that protect military prisoners.

The Russians informed the coordinators of the process that they agreed to evacuate the wounded Ukrainian defenders, provide assistance, and exchange them. Ukrainian soldiers received orders to save their lives.

“After these agreements, we witnessed on a video released by the enemy what happened at the captured position Zenit,” said Lubinets.

On 17 February, one of the Russian Telegram channels shared a video from the captured Zenit position on which relatives identified Ukrainian defenders Heorhii Pavlov, Andrii Dubnytskyi, and Ivan Zhytnyk as killed. According to the brigade’s information, the enemy also executed Oleksandr Zinchuk and Mykola Savosik. The Brigade said information about the sixth soldier has not yet been confirmed.

The ombudsman has urgently sent letters to the ICRC and the UN to document this war crime and investigate all the details.

“This is not the first time when Russia has grossly violated the norms of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions by executing prisoners of war,” emphasized Lubinets.

He called on the world to unite and increase pressure on the terrorist country.

“For Russia, there are no laws and agreements. It only understands force,” the ombudsman added.

Additionally, the Ukrainian Security Service has begun an investigation into a video that showed the execution of two more soldiers by a Russian occupier who shot the Ukrainian defenders near the village of Vesele in the Bakhmut district, as per UkrInform.

Earlier, the UK Intelligence said that Russia would likely seek to gradually extend its territorial control beyond Avdiivka in the coming weeks after seizing Avdiivka, following months of their meat-wave assaults to gain control of the city in Donetsk Oblast.

According to the Ukrainian commander of the operational and strategic grouping of troops “Tavria,” Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the Russian army lost almost 50,000 soldiers and over 1,300 units of military equipment during the active phase of fighting for Avdiivka since 10 October 2023.

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