UKRAINE, KYIV, May 2 — Since December 2023, Russian forces have executed at least 15 Ukrainian soldiers as they have attempted to surrender, Human Rights Watch said in their new report, calling to investigate these cases as war crimes. 

Human Rights Watch identified these cases through drone footage and video clips posted on social media, particularly X and Telegram. Human rights advocates note that Russian executions of Ukrainian soldiers who want to surrender “do not appear to be isolated instances.” 

On April 9, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine said that they’ve opened 27 investigations over Russian executions of 54 Ukrainian POWs. 

Yurii Bielousov, the Head of the Department for Combating Crimes Committed during the Armed Conflict, said that not only Russian unit commanders must be held responsible for the executions of POWs, but also “the highest military and political leadership of the Russian Federation,” as these actions “show their [entire] policy.”

HRW also refers to reports of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) reports. Their March 2023 report documents Russian armed forces and Wagner Group [Russian state-funded military company — ed.] executing 15 Ukrainian POWs during the first year of all-out war. 

A still frame extracted from drone footage filmed near Ivanivske village in the Donetska region of Ukraine moments before Russian soldiers shoot at seven surrendering Ukrainian soldiers at close range. / Human Rights Watch, refering to @GloOouD on X

HRMMU’s February to July 2023 report documents Russian executions of six Ukrainian POWs. Its follow-up, published in March 2024 and covering the period from December to February, documents another 12 cases of Russians executing Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

Russia has been regularly violating international humanitarian law in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion. On March 29, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andrii Kostin, reported that they documented 124,000 Russian war crimes.  

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