Ukraine says it will investigate video footage that Moscow alleges shows Ukrainian forces killing Russian troops who may have been trying to surrender, after one of the men seemingly refused to lay down his weapon and opened fire.
“Of course Ukrainian authorities will investigate this video,” Olha Stefanishyna, a Ukrainian deputy prime minister, said on the sidelines of a security forum in Halifax, Canada.
Stefanishyna, speaking late Saturday, said “it is very unlikely” that the short, edited snippets circulating on Russian social media show what Moscow claims.
Russian authorities announced the opening Friday of a criminal investigation based on the snippets posted on Russian Telegram channels and relayed on other social media. They present a muddled and incomplete picture.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged that the footage shows an “execution” and said Russia wants an international investigation.
Stefanishyna, however, said Ukrainian forces are “absolutely not interested in the execution of anybody” and are under direct orders to take “as many prisoners of war as we can” so that they can be swapped in prisoner exchanges with Russia.
“Every potential executed Russian soldier is some Ukrainian that is not able to be exchanged, so the spirit and logic is not there,” she said.
The United Nations’ Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine called for further investigation.
“HRMMU is aware of the video and is looking into it,” it said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We reiterate our call that all such allegations should be properly and promptly investigated by respective authorities.”
Asked if Ukraine would allow an international investigation, Stefanishyna said: “We will see. No problem with that.”
In their nearly nine-month invasion, Moscow’s forces have committed widespread abuses and alleged war crimes, according to the U.N., rights groups and independent reporting.
Matilda Bogner, who heads the U.N. monitoring mission in Ukraine, said earlier this week that Ukrainian troops are suspected of some abuses, too.
“We have received credible allegations of summary executions of persons hors de combat, and several cases of torture and ill-treatment, reportedly committed by members of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Bogner said.
The video snippets that Russia said pointed to an execution could not be independently verified.
The longest snippet, which lasts 36 seconds and has cuts, shows a group of about 10 men in full military gear, some lying on the ground and others emerging one by one from an outbuilding with their hands raised, apparently unarmed. Under orders shouted by someone off-camera, they join the others already on the ground.
Some of the men wear red bands on their lower legs. Red or white identifying marks are sometimes worn by Russian and Russia-aligned troops to identify them as members of the Kremlin’s invasion force.
The video also features other men watching them, shown to be armed and wearing flashes of yellow on their arms, legs and helmets.
Ukrainian forces often wear bits of yellow, blue or green to identify themselves on the battlefields.
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One man with a yellow armband appears to be holding the camera. Another, also with a yellow armband, is shown lying on the ground with a heavy machine gun and belts of ammunition. At least two other armed men wearing flashes of yellow 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. Amid what sounds like sustained …