(Kyiv) A new excruciating video showing the beheading of a suspected Ukrainian prisoner of war angered Ukraine on Wednesday, with President Volodymyr Zelensky denouncing a new exaction by Russian “monsters”.
AFP was unable to immediately verify the authenticity of the video, or where and when it may have been filmed. Ukrainian authorities have said they are trying to identify the victim.
The UN mission in Kyiv said it was “horrified” by these images demanding an investigation while the Kremlin called for verification of the “authenticity” of the video, which usually rejects accusations of crimes against its soldiers.
The UN representation also refers to a second video showing the mutilated bodies of Ukrainian prisoners.
“How easily these monsters kill. This video of the execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war, the world must see. It’s a video of Russia as it is”, launched President Zelensky in a video address published on Instagram.
“ It was (already) like that in Boutcha. Thousands of times”, he continued, referring to the suburbs of Kyiv which have become a symbol of the atrocities attributed to the Russian army.
The EU will hold “accountable all perpetrators and accomplices of war crimes” in Ukraine, a spokeswoman for the head of European diplomacy said on Wednesday, after the broadcast of a video appearing to show, according to Kyiv, a Russian soldier beheading a Ukrainian prisoner with a knife.
The head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba considered that Russia was “ worse than the Islamic State ”, a jihadist organization which filmed the executions of its hostages, in particular by beheading.
“Russian terrorists must be kicked out of Ukraine and the UN and held accountable for their crimes,” he said on Twitter.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has opened an investigation into this “ war crime ”. “ We will find these monsters […] They will be punished ”, hammered the head of the SBU Vassyl Maliouk in a press release.
Deputy Minister of Defense Ganna Maliar for her part indicated on Telegram that the authorities are doing “everything (their) possible to identify the deceased”.
On the Russian side, the spokesperson for the Russian presidency, Dmitry Peskov, also described the images as “ horrible ”, but questioned their veracity.
“ In the world of “fakes” in which we live, we must ensure the authenticity of this video”, he added.
Usually, Russian officials limit themselves to denying any involvement of Russian soldiers in war crimes, and accuse Ukraine of orchestrating the scenes.
The human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine declared itself “horrified” by these images, which also referred to a second video showing “mutilated bodies of apparent Ukrainian prisoners of war”.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident”, lamented the mission in a press release demanding to investigate these cases and bring their perpetrators to justice.
The video, one minute forty seconds of footage, has been circulating since Tuesday. On this one, a man in camouflage, his face masked, slices the neck of another man in uniform struggling on the ground, screaming “ it hurts ”.
After a few seconds, the screams stop and we hear a man behind the camera urging the executioner in Russian to “cut off the head” of the victim. The latter finishes his decapitation with a knife, and shows the severed head to the camera.
“You have to put it in the bag and send it to the commander,” said a voice in Russian. On camera, the victim’s waistcoat is also shown crossed out with the Ukrainian trident and a skull and crossbones.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of mistreating prisoners amounting to war crimes.
In early March, a video showing the alleged execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by Russian soldiers caused shock in Ukraine.
In November, the Kremlin was indignant at two videos appearing to show the alleged execution of a dozen Russian soldiers by bullets after surrendering to Ukrainian forces.
In late March, the UN accused Ukrainian and Russian forces of committing summary executions of prisoners of war.
Russia also denies, despite corroborating evidence, the summary executions of civilians, in particular in Boutcha, near Kyiv, a year ago.