March 27, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russians routinely torture Ukrainian POWs — UN report

Institute for the Study of War

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) released its 38th report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on March 26, confirming several of ISW’s longstanding assessments about Russia’s systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in occupied territories and towards Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs). The HRMMU report details activities between December 1, 2023 and February 29 2024, and includes new findings about Russia’s abuse of Ukrainian POWs during this timeframe, based on interviews with 60 recently released male POWs. Nearly all of the POWs that HRMMU interviewed detailed how they were tortured by Russian forces with beatings and electric shocks and threatened with execution, and over half of the interviewees experienced sexual violence. HRMMU also reported that it has evidence of Russian forces executing at least 32 POWs in 12 different incidents during the reporting period and independently verified three of the executions. ISW observed open-source evidence of several POW executions during this reporting period: the execution of three Ukrainian POWs near Robotyne, Zaporizhia Oblast on December 27, 2023; the execution of one Ukrainian POW near Klishchiivka, Donetsk Oblast on February 9, 2024; the executions of three Ukrainian POWs near Robotyne, the execution of six Ukrainian POWs near Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, and the executions of two Ukrainian POWs near Vesele, Donetsk Oblast on or around February 18, 2024; and the execution of nine Ukrainian POWs near Ivanivske, Donetsk Oblast, on February 25. The summary execution and mistreatment of POWs is a violation of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The HRMMU report also details the forced Russification of Ukrainian populations in occupied areas, including the imposition of Russian political, legal, and administrative systems onto occupied Ukraine in violation of Russia’s international legal obligations as an occupying power. ISW has reported at length on the specifics of Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukraine, consistent with the findings of the UN HRMMU report.

Russian officials are tying the US and the West to a broader set of “terrorist” attacks against Russia following the Crocus City Hall attack, likely to intensify rhetoric about alleged Western and Ukrainian threats to generate greater domestic support for the war in Ukraine. The Russian Investigative Committee and Prosecutor General’s Office stated on March 27 that they will consider an appeal from the Russian State Duma to investigate American and Western financing and organization of terrorist attacks against Russia. The Russian Investigative Committee, Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Duma Deputies that made the appeal did not explicitly reference the Crocus City Hall attack. Kremlin officials have previously tied Ukraine and the West to the Crocus City Hall attack but have yet to make a formal accusation, and the Kremlin may refrain from issuing an official accusation as all available evidence continues to show that the Islamic State (IS) is very likely responsible for the attack. Russian officials routinely describe Ukrainian military strikes against legitimate military targets in occupied Ukraine and Russia as terrorism and consistently claim that Western actors help organize these strikes. The Kremlin likely aims to seize on wider Russian social fears and anger following the Crocus City Hall attack by portraying Ukraine, the US, and the West as immediate terrorist threats. The Kremlin likely hopes that perceptions of Ukrainian and Western involvement in the Crocus City Hall attack will increase domestic support for the war in Ukraine, and Russian officials will likely invoke a broader view of what they consider terrorism to further cast Ukrainians as terrorists and the West as a sponsor of terrorism. The Kremlin may still formally accuse Ukraine of conducting the Crocus City Hall attack if it believes that these other informational efforts are insufficient to generate the domestic response it likely desires.

Key Takeaways:

  • The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) released its 38th report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on March 26, confirming several of ISW’s longstanding assessments about Russia’s systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in occupied territories and towards Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs).
  • Russian officials are tying the US and the West to a broader set of “terrorist” attacks against Russia following the Crocus City Hall attack, likely to intensify rhetoric about alleged Western and Ukrainian threats to generate greater domestic support for the war in Ukraine.
  • Russian authorities are increasing legal pressure against migrants in Russia following recent Russian officials’ proposals for harsher, measures against migrant communities in response to the March 22 Crocus City Hall attack.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Avdiivka and southwest of Donetsk City on March 27.
  • Russian Storm-Z personnel continue to complain about their poor treatment by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) as the MoD tries to posture efficacy in its force generation and social benefit allocation system.

Full report: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-27-2024 

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