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Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the office of the President of Ukraine, was the first representative of the Ukrainian authorities to comment on the video, which shows how Russian soldiers surrender, but then one of them opens fire. After that, the video shows already killed Russian soldiers.
He explained the situation with the video in an interview with Mark Feigin.
Russia immediately accused the Ukrainian military of executing prisoners of war. However, Oleksiy Arestovich draws special attention to the fact that one of the Russians started shooting. What led to the death of the Russian military.
In addition, Arestovych said that an official investigation of this situation is ongoing in Ukraine.
A similar position was later voiced by the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets. Olga Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, commented on the situation.
Earlier, the Ministry of Defense of Russia accused the Ukrainian military of shooting Russian soldiers who surrendered. The charges were brought on the basis of a video posted on Telegram channels. Its authenticity has not yet been confirmed.
Video recordings, on which Ukrainian soldiers allegedly shoot Russian soldiers in Makiivka, Luhansk region (the moment of the shooting itself was not captured on video), provoked a violent reaction from the Russian authorities.
In addition to the Ministry of Defense, which called what happened a “bloody massacre”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian Commissioner for Human Rights and the Investigative Committee also brought charges against the Ukrainian military. They stated that they had appealed to many international organizations with the demand to investigate the “shooting of the prisoners”.
What Arestovych said and Lubinets
Commenting on this video, Oleksiy Arestovych reminded that provocations during capture are a war crime.
“If you decide to surrender and then suddenly grab your weapon, then you are not a hero, but committing a war crime contrary to the Geneva Convention. The same applies to other provocations – simulating surrender or similar things that expose the enemy to fire,” – Arestovych said.
He believes that in this situation there was a provocation during the capture.
“We are not experts to say that armed resistance is definitely visible on the video. But the situation is very similar. So this guy decided to play the hero and framed all his colleagues. He committed a war crime,” added the adviser of the office the president
He claims that, according to international law, if a surrendered person starts to behave aggressively, he loses the rights of a prisoner of war.
“For example, a prisoner is escorted or he sits and waits, and then he decides to grab a knife or a machine gun. Why hug and kiss him now? No, he is a soldier of a foreign army who attacked us,” Arestovych added.
Therefore, according to him, it cannot be a question of shooting prisoners.
“Let’s imagine that they were captured by two Ukrainian soldiers – 12 people, and the thirteenth jumps out with a weapon and starts shooting. He may be killed, although this is also not known for sure yet. And the others may start to run away. What do they do when they are captured run away – they open fire on them,” Oleksiy Arestovich explained.
“Therefore, the maximum that can be read is the excess of the perpetrator. That is, there is no war crime here. There was no need to run out with weapons and shoot. Surrender – surrender.”
He emphasizes that the Ukrainian side is carefully checking these records and an official investigation is ongoing.
“Of course, the Ukrainian authorities will investigate this video,” Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Olga Stefanishyna also said in comments to The Associated Press on Saturday evening on the sidelines of a security forum in Halifax.
Arestovych considers this story to be part of the Russian information and psychological operation so that the Russians do not have the desire to surrender.
Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets later wrote that from individual pieces of the video about the incident with the Russian military in the Luhansk region, a conclusion can be drawn about a war crime on the part of the Russians.
“Using the staging of the capture, the Russians committed a war crime — they opened fire on the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In such a case, Russian servicemen cannot be considered prisoners of war, but are those who fight and commit treason,” Lubinets said.
He insists that returning fire is not a war crime.
“On the contrary, those who want to use the protection of international law for murder must be punished,” he added.
The BBC Reality Check team studied the footage to put together a likely picture of the event.
Warning: the text contains descriptions of violent scenes.
The incident caught on video happened on or before Saturday, November 12, in the village of Makiivka on the front line in Luhansk region.
In the evening of that day and on November 13, footage shot from a drone appeared on Ukrainian websites, showing the bodies of Russian soldiers lying on the ground in the yard of a village house.
The social media posts that accompanied the recording referred to a mortar attack that killed Russian soldiers, and the images were also included in a video by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine about the fighting in the Makiivka area.
However, this version of events has been questioned by the Russian mass media, which claims that Ukrainian servicemen committed extrajudicial killings of Russian soldiers.
On November 17, other footage of the same incident appeared – this time shot by Ukrainian soldiers directly at the scene of the events. It is shown that they are in the yard of the farm and order to leave the Russian soldiers who are hiding in the barn.
The Ukrainians point their weapons at the Russian soldiers and ask which of them is an officer and whether everyone has left the building.
In the video afterwards, you can see what is believed to be a Russian soldier in a darker uniform appear from around the corner of the building and appear to open fire, while other captured Russians lie on the ground.
After that, the camera falls to the ground, the sound of gunshots is heard.
It is impossible to distinguish in the video who he is shooting, on whose side he is fighting and what happens after that.
What the BBC managed to establish
Drone footage and footage taken at the scene appear to show the same incident. Both videos show the front door and what appears to be a red toy car in the front yard of the house.
More importantly, both videos match the positions in which the soldiers are lying – both before and after death.
The moment of the actual killing of the captured Russian servicemen is not on the video.
Is this a war crime?
The Russian Ministry of Defense condemned what happened as a “deliberate and methodical” killing of more than 10 immobilized Russian servicemen by headshots.
Killing or wounding a combatant who has laid down his arms and surrendered is a war crime. However, cheating in an attempted surrender, such as opening fire by one of the captives, is also against the rules of war.
This week, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the conditions of detention of prisoners of war during the war in Ukraine.
During the preparation of the report, UN staff interviewed 159 Ukrainians who were in Russian captivity and 175 Russians who returned from Ukrainian captivity. The authors of the report stated that both of them were tortured in captivity, but the brutal treatment in Russian captivity was systematic.
The Russian side claims that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has already begun studying new video recordings of the “shooting of Russian prisoners of war” in Makiivka.
“I have contacted colleagues who say that they know about these videos and are studying them,” the state agency “RIA Novosti” quotes Elizabeth Trossell, a representative of the press service of the administration.
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