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3 Aug, 2022 18:44

Russia accuses Ukraine of mistreating POWs

The Russian Defense Ministry provided details of what it called Kiev’s abysmal treatment of captives
Russia accuses Ukraine of mistreating POWs

Moscow has scrupulously observed the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners, while the government of Ukraine has tortured, starved and deprived of medical care the Russian soldiers in its captivity, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Wednesday. The West’s unwillingness to hold Kiev accountable has resulted in violations and outright crimes, Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters.

Russia has taken “painstaking” steps to observe the Geneva Convention on the treatment of POWs, among them holding more than 40 weekly meetings with representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and establishing a medical commission on seriously ill and injured prisoners. So far, 18 such prisoners were sent back to Ukraine, General Fomin said.

There have also been 27 exchanges of POWs and the bodies of dead servicemen, while the ICRC has received more than 1,500 letters home from the Ukrainian prisoners. Detained Ukrainian soldiers can also make phone calls to their families, Fomin said, all in accordance with Article 71 of the convention.

Fomin’s press conference came after the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it was appalled by a video allegedly showing a Russian soldier castrating a bound and gagged Ukrainian captive. In a statement on Friday, the commission reminded everyone that “torture and summary executions of prisoners of war” are war crimes. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has launched an investigation into the video, to establish where and when it might have taken place. 

The Russian general did not address the video directly. He did, however, say that while Russia has treated its prisoners in full accordance with international law, Ukraine has not.

According to a survey of exchanged service members, both Russian and those of the Donbass republics, 81% of the prisoners were subjected to beatings and other physical violence, while 55% were forced to film propaganda videos. Some 46% received no medical care, 79% were given no opportunity to contact relatives, and 19% were given poor or insufficient meals.

One detention center, run by the Ukrainian security service SBU in Kiev, gave captives only 50 grams of porridge, a piece of bread and a glass of water a day, while keeping them blindfolded.

Fomin also brought up videos circulating online showing “torture and abuse,” as well as extrajudicial executions and “monstrous acts of violence” against Russian and Donbass POWs. “Ukrainian Nazis” have also attempted to extort the families of captives for ransom, he said.

Russia has regularly informed the international humanitarian structures of Ukraine’s behavior, with requests to influence the Kiev government, but to little or no effect, Fomin said. 

In addition to the mistreatment of prisoners, according to the Russian military, Ukrainian forces have been using civilians as human shields, as well as using Western-supplied weapons and banned ordnance – such as cluster munitions and landmines – to target civilians in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. The international community has turned a blind eye to these atrocities, Fomin said, allowing them to continue.