Ukraine launches war crimes probe after video showing beheading
Ukrainian officials opened a war crimes investigation on Wednesday and President Volodymyr Zelensky called on world leaders to respond, after a video emerged online showing a Russian soldier beheading a Ukrainian prisoner.
The New York Times has not confirmed the origin or authenticity of the video, or when or where it was filmed. It circulated on Russian social media this week and was later shared more widely on Twitter and Ukrainian channels, prompting a furious response from Kyiv. The UN human rights mission in Ukraine said it was “appalled” by the video and called for an investigation.
Ukraine’s state security service said it had opened an investigation into the “brutal murder of a Ukrainian prisoner of war”, while the country’s foreign ministry urged the International Criminal Court to “immediately” do the same.
Mr Zelensky said there would be “legal accountability” for everything and urged leaders to react to the video.
“There is something that no one in the world can ignore: the ease with which these beasts kill,” Mr. Zelensky said in a video message posted on telegram messaging app, without directly blaming the murder. “Nobody will understand if the leaders do not react,” he added. “We must act now.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov called the video “terrible” but questioned its credibility.
“In the counterfeit world we live in, you have to first check whether the video is authentic,” Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, adding that you also have to determine which party did the deed.
The UN human rights mission to Ukraine said in a statement on Wednesday that “unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.” He added that in its recent reports, the mission has “documented a number of serious violations of international humanitarian law, including those committed against prisoners of war”.
Russian And Ukrainian the forces were accused of war crimes since Moscow ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, though the number and scale of reported Russian crimes far outweighs the charges against Ukraine. Evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces fueled Ukrainian outrage as well as a determination to bring the perpetrators to justice either in Ukrainian courts or at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Video that emerged online this week appears to show a Russian soldier beheading a man in Ukrainian military uniform, watched by a small group of other people in Russian uniform who speak Russian. It was filmed in a wooded area or forest and the leaves are green, suggesting the incident may have taken place before the onset of winter. The video circulated on Russian Telegram channels.
A separate video leaked online also appears to show two headless Ukrainian soldiers lying on the ground next to a destroyed military vehicle.
Last month, another video of an apparent execution of a Ukrainian soldier has emerged online. Mr Zelensky paid tribute to the soldier, who appeared to say “Glory to Ukraine” moments before his death.
Moscow also accused Ukraine of killing prisoners of war.
The International Criminal Court last month issued an arrest warrant of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin for war crimes, claiming he bore criminal responsibility for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children.
Youri Shyvala And Ivan Nechepurenko contributed report.