UN: video of Ukrainians executing Russian POWs 'highly likely to be authentic'

Video circulating on social media allegedly shows Ukrainian forces killing Russian prisoners as they lie on the ground

A group of Russian prisoners of war (POW) walk home after a prisoners swap with Ukraine. Russian Defence Ministry Press Service / EPA
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The UN human rights chief said on Friday that videos showing Ukrainian soldiers executing Russian prisoners of war appear to be "authentic" and called for allegations of summary executions on both sides to be fully investigated.

Volker Turk said the video, which has been circulating on social media and allegedly shows Ukrainian forces killing Russian prisoners as they lie on the ground, appeared to be “highly likely to be authentic”.

“Persons hors de combat, including soldiers who have surrendered, are protected under international humanitarian law and their summary execution constitutes a war crime,” he said.

Mr Turk called on the parties to issue clear instructions to their forces that there should be no retaliation made against those taken prisoner.

“Order your troops to treat those who surrender and those they detain humanely,” he said.

“We understand the Ukrainian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the events in Makiivka,” he added, referring to the area where the executions reportedly took place.

“It is essential that all allegations of summary executions are investigated fully in a manner that is — and is seen to be — independent, impartial, thorough, transparent, prompt and effective.”

The UN's monitoring team said that both Russia and Ukraine have tortured prisoners of war.

At the same time, the UN human rights chief blasted Russia's continuous missile bombardment of Ukraine, saying strikes on critical infrastructure raise “serious problems” under international humanitarian law.

Millions are being plunged into extreme hardship and appalling conditions of life by these strikes. Taken as a whole, this raises serious problems under international humanitarian law,” Mr Turk said.

He expressed his shock at the “unabated human suffering” in Ukraine and stressed that the “devastating impacts” of the missile strikes are a “stark reminder” of why international law exists and why it must be fully complied with to prevent a “descent into utter inhumanity and negation of the very idea of our human rights”.

Since October, Russia has launched a barrage of strikes that have aimed to destroy Ukraine's power grid.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring team said that, since October 10, at least 77 civilians have been killed and 272 injured.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that more than 60 Russian rockets had struck energy facilities and civilian areas, plunging much of the country into darkness.

Kyiv has even suggested that citizens leave the country, as 40 per cent of the energy system is shattered.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said only energy facilities related to the “military command and control system of Ukraine” had been attacked.

Updated: November 25, 2022, 6:03 PM