Ukraine has accused Russia of committing a war crime by executing two unarmed Ukrainian soldiers who had already surrendered, and said an investigation has been launched into the killings.
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said it had launched a probe into a video purporting to show the incident, saying it took place near an observation post outside Stepove village in Donetsk.
The video shows a Ukrainian soldier crawling out of a foxhole as six Russian soldiers wait for him outside. He is seen holding his hands up and then lying on the ground. Within seconds, another Ukrainian soldier stumbles out of the dugout and lies down. The Russian soldiers then fire upon the two unarmed Ukrainians.
“The video shows a group of people in Russian uniforms shooting, at point-blank range, two unarmed servicemen in the uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who were surrendering,” the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said.
“The killing of prisoners of war is a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions and is classified as a serious international crime,” it said.
The Independent was not able to verify the authenticity of the video.
The Ukraine prosecutor general announced the investigation on Sunday, a day after the video of the killing was shared by the Ukrainian government on its social media channels.
Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets had first commented on the incident on his official Telegram channel, stating that the “execution of those who surrender is a war crime”.
“Today, a video of the execution by Russian servicemen of Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered as prisoners appeared online. This is another violation of the Geneva Conventions and disrespect for international humanitarian law,” he wrote on Saturday.
He added: “I believe that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies will be able to identify the Russian servicemen who committed this crime”.
While Russia denies committing war crimes during its 21-month-old invasion of Ukraine, officials in Kyiv and international human rights organisations have repeatedly raised incidents involving violations of the rules of war by Russian troops.
Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Tavria military command, told the Ukrainska Pravda news website that the video was “glaring confirmation” that Russia violates the rules of warfare on a daily basis.
In a similar incident earlier this year, a captive Ukrainian sniper became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after he was shot dead in a video.
The sniper defiantly cried out “Glory to Ukraine” before he was killed in the video which surfaced in March.
In September, a panel of independent UN-backed human rights experts said they were documenting the mounting evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces in their war against Ukraine, including torture – some of it with such “brutality” that it led to death – and rape of women aged up to 83 years old.
The commission, in its report, said Russian soldiers in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region “raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years,” and often “family members were kept in an adjacent room hence being forced to hear the violations taking place”.
Russian officials have not acknowledged the expert commission’s report.