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On November 18, a video footage of events related to the death of a group of Russian soldiers in Makiivka, Luhansk region, was circulated on the Internet. In the first video, the Russians lie down on the ground, apparently surrendering to Ukrainian captivity. After that, probably, one of their colleagues opens fire in the direction of the Ukrainians and the filming is interrupted. In the second video, filmed from a height, 12 Russians – apparently already dead – lie in the same places; on the heads of some of them traces of bullet wounds are visible. Russia accused Ukraine of massacring unarmed prisoners; sounded and estimatesaccording to which a war crime (treachery during surrender) was committed by a Russian who opened fire.

The New York Times confirmed the authenticity of the videos, capturing the surrender of the Russians, the beginning of the shooting and the soldiers lying motionless with traces of bullet wounds. At the same time, the newspaper stated that it was impossible to unequivocally conclude from the video “how and why” the Russian soldiers were killed. Commenting at the request of the newspaper on footage of dead soldiers, Dr. Rohini Haar of Physicians for Human Rights said that most of them appeared to have been hit in the head. “There are pools of blood. This indicates that they were simply left for dead. It appears that no attempt was made to lift them or help them,” she said.

War crimes prosecuting expert Iva Vukusic told The New York Times that a possible classification of the Ukrainian military’s actions depends on when the Russians on the ground died, in a shootout that began after a Russian soldier opened fire on the Ukrainians, or already after his “neutralization”, as revenge.

“If these prisoners had not yet been searched, the Ukrainians did not know if they were armed or not, even though they were lying on the ground. <...> It is quite possible that if this guy had not started shooting, they would all have been taken prisoner and would have survived, ”Vukusic quotes The New York Times.

Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for European Integration Olga Stefanishyna promised that the Ukrainian authorities “will investigate this video”. Representatives of the investigating authorities of Ukraine have not yet made such promises. At the same time, Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmitry Lubinets has already declaredthat the published fragments of the video, in his opinion, allow us to judge the staging of surrender by the Russians – and, accordingly, the commission of a war crime by them. “In this case, persons from among the Russian military cannot be considered prisoners of war, but fight and commit treachery. Return fire is not a war crime,” said the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights.

Whether video evidence of other alleged war crimes by the Ukrainian military has been examined by the Ukrainian authorities is unknown. Following the release in March of a recording allegedly showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting captive Russians in the legs, Aleksey Arestovich, an adviser to the President’s office, declaredthat “there will be an investigation” of this situation. In April, when a video of the alleged killing of a wounded prisoner in Dmitrovka, Kyiv region, was published, adviser to the head of the presidential office, Mikhail Podolyak called into question its authenticity (journalists at The New York Times were also able to verify the video at the time).

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In the Kremlin declaredthat Russia will “itself engage in the search for those who committed this crime.” At the same time, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would try to “pay attention to this crime” and “within the framework of international mechanisms.” By words members of the Russian delegation to the UN, an official letter with information about “new evidence of Ukraine’s ill-treatment of Russian prisoners of war” was sent to the Secretary General of the organization António Guterres.

In the Russian Council for Human Rights (from where Vladimir Putin recently expelled several human rights activists, including the “military correspondent” Alexander Kots) promised send information about the “execution in Makeevka” “to 2000 addresses – including the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organizations, as well as directly to politicians, ambassadors, journalists and human rights activists.

After the publication of the video, the Investigative Committee of Russia opened criminal cases under articles on ill-treatment of prisoners of war and on the murder of two or more persons in connection with the performance of official activities.

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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