Video shows Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine being beaten and shot in their legs
By Haley Willis
A video shared online Sunday shows soldiers who are likely Ukrainian beating and shooting prisoners from the Russian military. The footage shows five of the prisoners tied up and lying on the ground — some held at gunpoint and some with bags over their heads.
In the footage, which runs for more than five minutes, the five tied-up prisoners appear to have serious injuries, but it’s not clear how they were wounded. Later in the video, three other captives are shot in their legs without provocation and fall to the ground. One of them is then struck in his face with the end of a rifle. The New York Times is not publishing the video because of the graphic imagery it contains.
A number of the captors, who kick and hit the prisoners throughout the video, are wearing blue armbands characteristic of the Ukrainian military. Both parties are mostly speaking Russian, with the captors speaking Russian in a Ukrainian accent. At one point in the video one captor is heard speaking Ukrainian.
The Times has not identified the source who originally posted the video. But based on the video’s perspective and dialogue, it appears to have been filmed by one of the captors.
The location of the video, first suggested by a Twitter user, has been independently verified by the Times. It was filmed on the eastern outskirts of Kharkiv, near the front line of the conflict, in an area held by Ukrainian forces. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is closer to Russia than any other large Ukrainian city and has been targeted by Russia with overwhelming and indiscriminate firepower that has reduced parts of the city to ruins.
Following the circulation of the footage, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s President’s Office, released a video in which he said that “all prisoners are to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, whatever your personal emotional motives” — though he did not refer to the specific incident near Kharkiv.
The abuse of the prisoners could be a possible violation of the Geneva Conventions, a series of treaties, signed in the aftermath of World War II, which are considered the essence of the rules for modern armed conflict, including the humane treatment of prisoners of war. Ukraine’s government has previously faced criticism for distributing videos of Russian prisoners of war in its custody.
In the video, the captors spend most of their time interrogating the five prisoners about the locations of various military units in the area and ask the prisoners personal details such as their ranks and hometowns. At one point, one of the captives appears to lose consciousness. In the background, a man is heard yelling that they are doing this because “you were (expletive) destroying Kharkiv” — in what appeared to be a reference to Russian forces’ actions demolishing the city.
As the questioning is underway as to whether any of the prisoners are officers in the Russian military, three other captives emerge from a van before a soldier wearing a blue arm band shoots them at close range in the leg with an assault rifle. Two have their hands already tied behind their backs, while the other does not appear to have threatened the soldiers in any way.