Russia has accused Ukraine of war crimes after a video surfaced on social media which Moscow says shows Russian soldiers killed after surrendering to Ukrainian forces.
The video, geolocated by CNN, was shot on the outskirts of the village of Makiivka, located in the eastern Luhansk region, about 25 miles (about 40 kilometers) northeast of the town of Lyman.
It’s unclear when the video was shot, but most likely it was either 11/12 – the date the video first appeared online – or in the days immediately preceding it. The village was only declared liberated from Russian control in an announcement by the military administration of the Lugansk region on November 11. 13.
The edited video is said to show captured Russian soldiers in an act of surrender, with several men lying on the ground with their hands over their heads. More soldiers come out of a building one by one and lie down next to them in the yard.
A voice is heard, apparently directing the surrender: “Come out, one by one. Which one of you is the officer? Did everyone come out? Come out!”
After about 10 men are on the ground, another soldier emerges from the same building and appears to open fire towards the Ukrainian soldiers who are conducting the surrender.
A brief exchange of gunfire can be heard before the video clip ends abruptly.
A second clip, later filmed by a drone over the same location, shows the bodies of what appear to be the same Russian soldiers in the yard, mostly just a few yards from where they lay in the first clip. What appear to be pools of blood are clearly visible in several places.
CNN was unable to verify exactly what happened in the first video clip, and it’s unclear exactly what happened in the time that elapsed between the first clip and the drone footage being filmed.
Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Human Rights Office, said, according to Reuters: “We are aware of the videos and are investigating them. Allegations of summary executions of people incapacitated should be promptly, fully and effectively investigated, and all perpetrators held accountable.”
A statement by Russia’s defense ministry denounced the “deliberate and systematic killing of more than 10 immobilized Russian soldiers… by direct shots to the head,” claiming it was the latest war crime committed by Ukraine in the war.
CNN has twice reached out to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces for comment on the video clips within 24 hours, but has yet to receive a response.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s 80th Airborne Brigade told CNN that the drone footage was captured by the brigade’s airborne reconnaissance unit. When asked if the Ukrainian soldiers in the clip were also members of his brigade, the narrator only replied that he did not recognize any of the men in the clip.
The execution of prisoners of war is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as is the act of cowardly surrender.
Earlier in the week, Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said in a briefing with journalists before the Makiivka videos were widely shared that the UN had received credible reports of the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners during the war by Russia and Ukraine, Reuters reported.
When asked to compare the extent of abuse committed, Bogner said Russian abuse of Ukrainian prisoners was “fairly systematic,” while she said it was “not systematic” for Ukraine to abuse Russian soldiers, according to Reuters.
More context: A UN panel of experts said in September that their investigation found evidence of war crimes being committed in Ukraine during the Russian war, including cases of rape and torture of children.