Ukraine says it will investigate video footage circulating on Russian social media that Moscow says shows Ukrainian forces killing Russian troops who may have been trying to surrender, after one of the men apparently refused to leave. his weapon and opened fire.
“Of course the Ukrainian authorities will investigate this video,” Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister who oversees the country’s push to join the European Union, said on the sidelines of a security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Stefanishyna, speaking on Saturday night, said it was “highly unlikely” that the short edited snippets show what Moscow is claiming.
Russian authorities announced on Friday the opening of a criminal investigation based on the snippets posted on Russian Telegram channels and broadcast on other social media. They present a confusing and incomplete picture.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed the footage showed an “execution” and said Russia wants an international investigation.
Stefanishyna, however, said Ukrainian forces “are absolutely not interested in anyone’s execution” and have direct orders to take “as many prisoners of war as we can” to exchange with Russia.
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“Every potentially executed Russian soldier is an untradeable Ukrainian, so the spirit and logic are not there,” he said.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine called for further investigation.
“HRMMU is aware of the video and is investigating it,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We reiterate our call for all such allegations to be properly and promptly investigated by the respective authorities.”
Asked if Ukraine will allow an international investigation, Stefanishyna said: “We’ll see. There’s no problem with that.”
In the nearly nine-month-long invasion, Moscow forces have committed widespread abuses and alleged war crimes, according to the United Nations, rights groups and The AP reports.
Matilda Bogner, who heads the UN monitoring mission in Ukraine, said earlier this week that Ukrainian troops are also suspected of some abuses.
“We have received credible reports of summary executions of people hors de combat and several cases of torture and ill-treatment, allegedly committed by members of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Bogner said.
Video clips that Russia claimed pointed to an execution could not be independently verified.
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The longest clip, 36 seconds long and cut out, shows a group of about 10 men in full military uniform, some lying on the ground and others emerging one by one from an outbuilding with their hands up, apparently unarmed. Under shouted orders from someone off camera, they join the others already on the ground.
Some of the men wear red bands on their lower legs. Russian and Russian-aligned troops sometimes wear red or white identification marks to identify them as members of the Kremlin invasion force.
The video also shows other men looking at them, armed and with yellow flashes on their arms, legs and helmets.
Ukrainian forces often wear yellow, blue, or green pieces to identify themselves on battlefields.
A man with a yellow armband appears to be holding the camera. Another, also wearing a yellow armband, is shown lying on the ground with a heavy machine gun and ammunition belts. At least two other armed men with yellow flashes also appear to be watching the apparent surrender.
In the last few seconds of the video, a man emerges from behind the outbuilding. He appears to be armed. In the middle of what sounds like sustained gunshots, the video becomes too blurry to see what happened next. The video cuts out a few seconds later.
A separate 8 second snippet with no sound appears to show those final moments slowed down. As he emerges, the apparently armed man appears to raise a rifle and open fire, the muzzle of the gun emitting puffs of smoke.
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Another separate segment of the video, 25 seconds long and apparently shot with a drone, appears to show the same men standing motionless, amid what appears to be pools of blood.
Where and when the videos were filmed was unclear. Most of the leafless trees in the backgrounds seem to suggest a fall or winter time period.
Andrey Marochko, a man who identified himself as a Russian officer based in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, claimed on Telegram that the footage was filmed in Makiivka, a town in occupied eastern Ukraine. Russian media gave the same location. Ukrainian forces claimed to have regained control of the frontline village earlier this month.