The videos allegedly showing Ukrainian servicemen killing Russian captives has been verified by The New York Times to be authentic.
“The videos, detailed below and whose authenticity has been verified by The New York Times, offer a rare look into one gruesome moment among many in the war, but do not show how or why the Russian soldiers were killed,” reads the media outlet’s website. The NYT then provides a detailed analysis of the footage.
The encounter was filmed by two sources: an unnamed Ukrainian soldier who was taking cellphone video diaries of the fight for Makiivka and drone videos most likely filmed by Ukrainian forces surveilling the offensive. The footage shows 12 dead bodies of soldiers, blood spots visible nearby some of those.
Now, Moscow and Kyiv has each accused the other of committing war crimes in the same episode — the Russians accusing Ukraine’s forces of “mercilessly shooting unarmed Russian P.O.W.s,” and Ukraine’s commissioner for human rights, Dmytro Lubinets, saying Russian soldiers had opened fire during the act of surrendering.
“It looks like most of them were shot in the head,” Dr. Rohini Haar, medical adviser at Physicians for Human Rights, said in an interview. “There are pools of blood. That indicates that they were just left there dead. There appears to have been no effort to pick them up or help them. Killing or wounding a combatant, who, having laid down his arms or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion is a violation of the laws of international armed conflict.”
Iva Vukušić, a war crimes prosecution expert at Utrecht University, said that it was difficult to determine whether a war crime had or had not been committed based on the video evidence alone, and that the critical factor was time — when the Russians were shot. “If these P.O.W.s were not searched yet, then the Ukrainians don’t know if they’re armed, even if they are on the ground,” she says.
The Russian gunman’s actions are critical, too, Dr. Vukušić said, and could be deemed perfidy — feigning surrender or noncombatant status as a ruse against the Ukrainians — which may be prosecutable as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
“We are aware of the videos, and we are looking into them,” Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, told Reuters on Friday.
The Russian Ministry of Defence accused Ukrainian servicemen of “mass execution on the unarmed Russian prisoners of war” on 18 November.
Ukraine is going to investigate the footage, Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister overseeing the country’s push to join the European Union, said.