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HRW: Russian troops executed at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers, who surrendered, since December 2023

The international human rights organization’s report, released on 2 May confirms the authenticity of videos showing the killing of at least 15 Ukrainian servicemembers who were attempting to surrender and at least six more who had already surrendered.
Marsove Pole (Mars Field) in Lviv, graves of Ukrainian fallen soldiers
Marsove Pole (Mars Field) in Lviv, graves of Ukrainian fallen soldiers Credit: Facebook Yurko Dyachyshyn
HRW: Russian troops executed at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers, who surrendered, since December 2023

Russian forces have likely killed at least 15 Ukrainian servicemembers who were attempting to surrender since early December 2023, and at least six more servicemembers who had already surrendered, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch reported on 2 May.

The killing of prisoners of war or those who have surrendered is considered a war crime under international law and is prohibited by the legislation of both countries.

Telegram channels and Ukrainian media outlets posted videos of alleged killings of soldiers attempting to surrender previously, but they were not verified. Human Rights Watch has confirmed in its report that several such incidents have occurred in recent months.

“After verifying and analyzing drone footage posted on social media on December 2 and 27, 2023, and February 25, 2024, Human Rights Watch investigated three episodes of apparent extrajudicial executions of at least 12 Ukrainian soldiers.”

The locations depicted in two of the three videos have been geolocated to the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts. The videos captured the words of a likely Russian commander ordering that prisoners should not be taken, effectively an order to kill those who surrender.

The authenticity of another video showing the killing of three Ukrainian soldiers surrendering has also been confirmed. HRW investigated a video depicting the killing of six soldiers who had already surrendered, but as reported, “the circumstances of their killings appear less clear.”

Reports said that “these apparent extrajudicial executions are not isolated incidents.”

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in March that since December, there had been reports of the killing of at least 32 prisoners of war or Ukrainians attempting to surrender. The report said that not all of these reports could be confirmed.

Human Rights Watch reported that the organization “wrote to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on 22 April, requesting information about the described incidents, as well as whether Russian service members are being ordered to kill Ukrainian soldiers attempting to surrender rather than take them prisoner.” No response to the letter has been received, the organization reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry has not yet commented on the publication. Russian military personnel have denied such instances of killing Ukrainians attempting to surrender and, conversely, have pointed to cases of killings of captured Russian servicemembers.

The Office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General reported on 9 April that investigations are underway into 27 criminal cases involving the execution of 54 Ukrainian prisoners of war. In total, over 5,000 criminal cases concerning potential crimes, including the killing of prisoners, committed by Russian military personnel during the full-scale invasion are under investigation in Ukraine.

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