The Russian soldiers who were allegedly executed by Ukrainian forces pretended to surrender and opened fire on their would-be captors, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense accused Ukraine of committing war crimes Friday after video snippets believed to have been filmed in Makiivka, a city located in Ukraine’s partially Russian-occupied Luhansk region, pointed to Ukrainian soldiers killing a group of surrendering Russian service members, Al Jazeera reported.
The ministry claimed the Russian soldiers were executed, but the Ukrainian forces featured in the videos may have acted in self-defense.
While some of the Russian servicemen actually intended to surrender, others opened fire on the Ukrainian troops, according to Mikhail Podolyak, who is the adviser of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“[W]hen one watches the full video, it is clear that some of the Russian servicemen were really going to surrender, and some of them opened fire on the Ukrainians who were trying to carry out the procedure,” Podolyak said in an interview with Russian journalists Alexander Plushev and Tatiana Felgengauer.
The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general made the same allegations.
“[The] Russian military personnel opened fire on the Ukrainian defenders while imitating surrender,” the office was quoted as saying by the independent Russian news outlet The Insider.
Perfidy, defined by the Geneva Conventions as “acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence,” is considered a war crime.
Dr. Iva Vukusic, a war crimes prosecution expert teaching at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, claimed it was difficult to determine whether a war crime was committed based on the videos.
Ukrainian authorities have the full version of the clips depicting the shooting, according to Podolyak. It has not been published.
The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has launched an investigation into the incident under Article 438 of the country’s Criminal Code.
Russia’s main federal investigating body has also opened on a criminal case on the alleged murder and mistreatment of its soldiers.
The United Nations has confirmed it will probe the incident as well.
“We are aware of the videos, and we are looking into them,” Marta Hurtado, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, told Reuters in a statement.