Russia makes appeal to Red Cross
Russia’s human rights ombudsman has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help in arranging a visit to servicemen held captive by Ukrainian forces amid Moscow’s military offensive.
In a Telegram post published on Monday, Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova noted that the ICRC had often served as “the last resort” for the relatives of prisoners of war in the past, as it was the only authority which could provide some information about their loved ones. However, according to the ombudsman, neither the Russian government nor the soldiers’ relatives have so far received any information about POWs held in Ukraine.
“Therefore, I once again turned to the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr. Peter Maurer, with a request to provide information about Russian prisoners of war and help me or my representatives visit them. I really hope that my other appeal will not go unnoticed,” Moskalkova wrote.
She said Moscow is unaware of the psychological and physical condition of the Russian servicemen. It is also unclear whether they are getting medical assistance or if the provisions of the Geneva Convention are being observed by the Ukrainian side.
“It would be very bitter to realize that such a respected organization as the ICRC had forgotten about the universal principles of humanism, and, like many other international structures, is guided by double standards in relation to our prisoners,” the ombudsman said.
She also claimed that, when it comes to the treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war, Russia is complying with all international requirements. Moskalkova said she visited one of the Black Sea Fleet units in early April “to make sure that the Ukrainian prisoners are provided with everything necessary and their rights, protected by the Geneva Convention, are fully respected.”
“They said that they are provided with three hot meals a day, medical care, they have a TV, books and newspapers. According to them, they did not expect such a human attitude towards themselves,” Moskalkova claimed.
Her remarks came as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that the exchange of prisoners of war “is being carried out constantly in one form or another.”
Since the beginning of the Russian military attack on Ukraine, Moscow and Kiev have constantly accused each other of violence towards prisoners. In an interview with RT earlier this month, the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, said a number of allegations relating to the torture of Russian POWs by Ukrainian forces were being investigated.
His remarks followed a statement by the Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova, who accused the Russian “occupiers” and “racists” of torturing Ukrainian soldiers captured in Mariupol. According to Denisova, the Ukrainians were “threatened with murder, beaten and humiliated,” as well as being deprived of water and medical assistance.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.