9 Apr 2015

Pro-Russian rebels accused of Ukraine ‘war crimes’

Long suspected but short on the vital evidence, Amnesty International today accused pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine of war crimes: namely the execution of captured Ukrainian soldiers.

Amnesty talks of: “Shocking new evidence of execution-style killings by pro-Russian armed groups in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, illustrates the urgent need for an investigation into the escalating human rights and humanitarian crisis in the area.”

Amnesty says it has viewed footage which it says “shows a 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.”

According to Amnesty: “A number of individuals claim to have seen Branovytsky being shot and killed at  point-blank range by a separatist commander. His body was returned to his family earlier this month and he was buried in Kiev on 3 April. The Ukrainian security services have opened an investigation into his killing.”

The hand of a dead Ukrainian soldier is pictured through the rubble of the destroyed Donetsk airport

“Amnesty has also seen 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 the upper parts of their bodies, apparently the result of execution-style killings. The soldiers had been captured by pro-Russian forces in Debaltseve between 12 and 18 February 2015 when the defending Ukrainian forces were encircled there.”

Hands bound

This comes after a curious episode in which Channel 4 News was invited to the ruins of Donetsk Airport in February by a pro-Russian local commander.

The curiosity being that these fighters were keen for us to film at least six bodies of soldiers lying frozen in the snow. At least two had their hands bound at the wrists but I saw no signs of gunshot wounds to their head nor anywhere else.

Instantly, assorted Twitter propagandists seized on this as proof of execution when it proved nothing of the sort. Though it looked bad – suspicious even.

However, it is commonplace for soldiers to tie the wrists of bodies to make them easier to move and I have seen plenty of video of this happening and seen it happening with my own eyes.

But it did show a callous approach at the very least, by rebels, to the bodies of men they said were Ukrainians. At the very least a completely unprofessional approach to dealing with those killed in battle. It was also just plain stupid since their enemies were bound to seize upon the bound wrists as “proof” of executions – so why parade these bodies in this fashion?

‘Sparta Battalion’

But Amnesty’s report adds further evidence and comes after a recent interview in the Ukrainian newspaper Kiev Post on Monday this week featuring a phone interview, allegedly made by Arseniy Pavlov, better known by his nom-de-guerre “Motorola”.

Pavlov, reportedly 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 alleged to have killed Ihor Branovytsky.

Amnesty has called for a further investigation into the so-called “Sparta Battalion” and what Pavlov may or may not have done.

That concept is likely to dissipate into the summer heat haze on the steppes of Donbass. The business of bringing men to justice for alleged war crimes is of course the business of losers’ justice only. Granted – better that than no justice at all, but Mr Pavlov will likely lose no sleep over today’s news and that explains in part why he may feel so emboldened as to make the “confession” he has.

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3 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    War is evil, and civil war arguably the worst of the lot.

    If history teaches us anything, it is that all sides in all wars are guilty of war crimes. No exceptions.

    This is no less true in Ukraine as anywhere else, which is why the Kiev and Lviv Nazis who kicked off this latest wicked horror should be in the same dock as Western governments who helped instigate it and who now arm the Nazis and keep the war going.

    Which is why, of course, the USA will not subject itself to the International Criminal Court. If it did, there would be a steady procession of their military, politicians and “businessmen” into the slammer. As it is, the West literally gets away with mass murder.

    None of it excuses any war criminal from any side. The REAL question is who instigated the Ukraine civil war and why. Get to that root and you’ll doubtless find some very nasty insects indeed.

  2. Alan says:

    Given many other reputable news sources concerning the Ukrainian coup, the editorial is really doing itself few favours in the propaganda war.

  3. esther says:

    Channel4 News threw all of its available resources to cover Gaza from the Hamas end of the conflict. However, nothing like those resources have put forward by it to cover the humanitarian catastrophe that is the Palestinian Yarmouk suburb of Damascus. After all of your news anchors and reporters emoting about around 2,000 dead in the Gaza conflict, why don’t we now get to see Paul Mason donning his flak-jacket to show us the Palestinian and other child blast-victims who are collateral to the 250,000 dead, and rising, in the sectarian civil war in Syria? I hope that a double-standard is not in play at Ch4.

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