The execution of prisoners is a war crime, said High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk
Videos showing Russian soldiers apparently executed by Ukrainian forces appear genuine, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk stated on Friday. He called on Kiev to fully investigate what Moscow has described as an outright execution.
The footage, consisting of two clips stitched into one video, surfaced on social media last week. It shows a dozen unarmed Russian servicemen surrendering to Ukrainian troops and lying down on the ground, a separate man apparently opening fire on the Ukrainians, and the first dozen soldiers lying dead in pools of blood.
"Our Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has conducted a preliminary analysis indicating that these disturbing videos are highly likely to be authentic in what they show," Turk said in a press release. "The analysis...underlines the need for independent and detailed forensic investigations to help establish exactly what happened."
The Russian Ministry of Defense described the footage as evidence of "the deliberate and methodical murder" of the soldiers, with the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council calling the incident a "demonstrative and audacious crime."
Kiev has promised to investigate the incident, but Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishina claimed last week that it is "very unlikely" that the clips show a deliberate execution, and Ukraine's Prosecutor General accused the Russian soldiers, who were unarmed, of "imitating a surrender" in order to ambush their captors.
Turk acknowledged that Ukraine has opened an investigation, and called on Kiev to make sure that the probe "is seen to be independent, impartial, thorough, transparent, prompt and effective."
The UN commissioner also called on both sides "to issue clear instructions to their forces that there should be no retaliation, no reprisals, against those they take as prisoners of war," and reminded both militaries that the "summary execution" of prisoners constitutes a war crime.
"Order your troops to treat those who surrender and those they detain humanely," he told commanders.
In addition to executing the captured Russians, Ukrainian commanders have murdered their own men for refusing to follow orders, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday. Putin declared that Russia is "dealing with a neo-Nazi regime" in Ukraine, which operates in "a completely different moral atmosphere."