Russia has accused Ukraine of war crimes after a video emerged on social media that Moscow said showed Russian soldiers killed after they surrendered to Ukrainian forces.
The video, geolocated by CNN, was filmed on the outskirts of the village of Makeyevka, located in the eastern Luhansk region, about 25 miles (about 40 kilometers) northeast of the city of Liman.
It’s not clear when the video was filmed, but it likely took place either on November 12 – the date the video first appeared online – or in the days immediately leading up to it. The village’s liberation from Russian control was announced only in a declaration issued by the Military Administration of the Luhansk Region on 13 November.
The edited video purports to show captured Russian soldiers in an act of surrender, with many of the men sprawled on the ground on their foreheads with their hands above their heads. One by one, more soldiers were seen exiting a building and lying beside them in the courtyard.
A voice apparently directing surrender can be heard shouting: “Come outside, one by one. Which of you is the officer? Is everyone out? Show up!”
After about 10 men fall to the ground, another soldier emerges from the same building and appears to shoot in the direction of the Ukrainian soldiers who are doing the surrender.
A brief exchange of gunfire is heard before the video clip comes to an abrupt end.
A second clip filmed later from a drone over the same location shows the bodies of what appear to be the same Russian soldiers in the yard, most of them just a few meters away from where they lay in the first clip. What appeared to be pools of blood could be clearly seen in several places.
CNN has been unable to verify exactly what happened in the first video clip, and it’s not clear exactly what happened in the time between the first clip and the shooting of the drone footage.
Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, said, according to Reuters: “We are aware of the videos and are investigating them. Allegations of summary executions of people hors de combat must be promptly, fully and effectively investigated, and the perpetrators held accountable.”
A statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense denounced what it said was the “deliberate and systematic killing of more than a dozen immobilized Russian servicemen…with direct shots to the head”, claiming it was the latest war crime committed by Ukraine in the war.
CNN has reached out to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for comment on the videos twice within 24 hours, but has not yet received a response.
A spokesman for the 80th Airborne Brigade in Ukraine told CNN that the footage of the drone was taken by the brigade’s aerial reconnaissance unit. Asked if the Ukrainian soldiers who appeared in the clip were members of his brigade, the spokesman said only that he did not recognize any of the men in the clip.
Executing prisoners of war is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as is the act of feigning surrender.
Earlier in the week, at a briefing with journalists before the Makeyevka videos went viral, the head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, said the UN had received credible reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. Reuters reported that the war is between Russia and Ukraine.
When asked to compare the level of abuse committed, Bogner said the mistreatment of Ukrainian prisoners by the Russians was “somewhat systematic,” while she said it was “not systematic” for Ukraine to mistreat Russian soldiers, according to Reuters.
More context: A United Nations panel of experts said in September that its investigation had found evidence of war crimes committed during Russia’s war in Ukraine, including cases of rape and torture of children.