Friday, April 17, 2015

Russian Barbarism: Executing POWs
Since the start of the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-15, news and social media have been filled an ample of amount of stories about Russian war crimes committed against the civilian population and soldiers. The destruction of MH-17 is perhaps the most blatant example of this.
The latest case pertains to documented evidence that Russian troops have been executing Ukrainian prisoners of war in clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
Article 13 of the convention regarding treatment of prisoners of war unmistakably declares:
“Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.
“Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity
“Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.”
News of this shocking evidence was brought to light last week by Amnesty International. The global human rights nongovernmental organization, which viewed a video account, described the incidents as “execution-style” killings by what it called pro-Russian armed groups in Donbas.
“The new evidence of these summary killings confirms what we have suspected for a long time. The question now is: what are the separatist leaders going to do about it?” Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
“The torture, ill-treatment and killing of captured, surrendered or wounded soldiers are war crimes. These claims must be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated, and the perpetrators prosecuted in fair trials by recognized authorities.”
Amnesty International favors use of “pro-Russian” but the murderers could just as easily have been Russian regular army commanders.
Footage reviewed by Amnesty International shows Ukrainian soldier Ihor Branovytsky, one of the defenders of Donetsk airport, taken captive and interrogated. The video, posted on YouTube, shows signs that he was hit in the face. He remained in captivity until he was killed. For their dedication to defending the airport, Ukrainian soldiers were nicknamed “cyborgs” – which has evolved into a modern-day badge of honor in Ukraine.
According to Amnesty International, several individuals claim to have seen Branovytsky being shot and killed point-blank by a separatist commander. His body was returned to his family earlier this month and he was buried in Kyiv on April 3. Ukrainian security services have opened an investigation into his killing.
Amnesty International has also confirmed seeing other videos documenting the captivity, and pictures of the dead bodies, of at least three other members of the Ukrainian armed forces, reportedly being held in a morgue in Donetsk. There are signs of bullet wounds to their heads and upper parts of their bodies, apparently the result of execution-style killings. The soldiers were captured by Russian forces in Debaltseve during February 12-18, when the defending Ukrainian forces were encircled there.
Amnesty International cited a report in the Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Post on April 6, which published a phone interview, reportedly made with Arseniy Pavlov, better known by his nom-de-guerre “Motorola.” Pavlov, who claims to be a Russian national and the leader of the pro-Russian armed group known as “Sparta Battalion” operating in eastern Ukraine, claimed he had “shot dead” 15 soldiers captured from the Ukrainian armed forces. He is believed to have killed Ihor Branovytsky.
“This chilling ‘confession’ from a separatist fighter, alongside video evidence and testimony from witnesses, and the mounting evidence of abuses of captives by both sides, highlights the urgent need for an independent investigation into this and all other allegations of abuses in this conflict which began a year ago,” said Krivosheev.
Amnesty International said this type of behavior is tantamount to a war crime.
Summary killings are a war crime, plain and simple. The leaders of the self-styled ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in eastern Ukraine must send their members a clear message: those who fight with them or on their behalf must respect the laws of war. They must urgently remove from their ranks anyone suspected of responsibility for ordering or committing serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, and fully cooperate with any independent investigation,” said Krivosheev.
Russian terrorists in Ukraine are holding at least 300 Ukrainian POWs, according to Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Yuri Tandyt and it’s believed that some of them have been transported across the border to an uncertain fate into Russia.
Under the Minsk ceasefire accords, POWs and other detainees were to be returned to their national representatives.
The Associated Press, in fulfilling its journalistic obligation of presenting both sides of the issue, reported that Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for Russian mercenary terrorists, denied the claims, saying that footage of soldiers being taken prisoner could not serve as evidence. “Accusations without facts are nothing. Nobody has shot anybody," Basurin was quoted as saying.
Can you imagine a correspondent or news service during World War II, such as Edward R. Murrow, quoting a spokesman for the Nazis, the Gestapo or SS who denied Nazi war crimes and killing Jews en masse?

After World War II, Nazis were brought to trial in Nuremberg for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ukraine and the free world must immediately begin preparations to bring Russians who committed war crimes in Ukraine – those who actually shot the POWs and those who gave the orders – to trial in The Hague. This issue cannot be swept under the diplomatic rug and the execution of Ukrainian POWs as well as the Holodomor should not be granted statutes of limitation for the sake of improving relations with Moscow.