The UN Human Rights Office’s mission in Ukraine says abuses could amount to war crimes.
UN human rights monitors have documented dozens of summary killings of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners of war, as well as torture, the use of human shields and other abuses since Russia invaded its neighbor, according to a report saying such actions could amount to war crimes.
The UN Human Rights Office Mission in Ukraine on Friday released its first full look at the treatment of prisoners of war during Ukraine’s war, along with an update on human rights violations in general from a six-month period running through January.
The report was based on interviews with about 400 prisoners of war, half of them Ukrainians who were released and the other half Russians who were held captive in Ukraine.
The team said it had no access to prisoners of war in Russia or Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, where it identified 48 places of internment. The mission said it nevertheless documented about 40 summary executions over the course of the 13-month war.
The UN rights agency, which has had a monitoring team in Ukraine since fighting broke out in areas of eastern Ukraine claimed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014, has said its findings are based on confirmed cases and typically underestimate the true toll.
“We are deeply concerned about the summary execution of up to 25 Russian prisoners of war and persons ordered to fight by the Ukrainian forces, which we have documented,” Matilda Bogner, the head of the UN monitoring mission, said at a news conference in Kyiv. . .
Bogner explained abuses allegedly committed by both sides, but noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was at the root of the violence against civilians and prisoners of war. She said Ukrainian prosecutors were investigating some cases, but none had yet been brought to trial.
“With regard to the treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war, we are also deeply concerned about the summary execution of 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war shortly after their capture by Russian forces,” said Bogner.
“The military and security contractors of the Wagner Group committed 11 of these executions,” she said.
The UN rights office also documented five cases in which Ukrainian POWs had died after being tortured or otherwise ill-treated and four cases of deaths due to lack of medical care during internment.
The report found that while POW abuses occurred on both sides, it was far more common against Ukrainians – more than nine in 10 interviewees reported abuse – than against Russians, about half of whom testified to abuse.
In an update on rights violations affecting other groups, the rights agency said children from the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine were sent to “summer camps” in Russia with parental consent, but were not returned home after the holiday season as expected. Several parts of Kharkiv province were occupied by Russia last year before the Ukrainian army took them back in a late-summer counter-offensive.
About 200 children sent to a camp in the Russian city of Krasnodarskyi Krai stayed over the summer and were enrolled in a local school, according to this second report. The update noted that in October, Russian authorities said as many as 2,500 children from Ukraine were living in temporary shelters in Russia and that some had remained there.
But the law office warned it remained unclear how many unaccompanied children were placed in camps, temporary shelters or institutionalized care in Russia and how many children were transferred there with their parents.
The UN reported earlier this week that it had recorded the deaths of 8,317 civilians in Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022. They had also documented that 13,809 people were injured in connection with the conflict. It warned that those numbers underestimate the actual casualties.