UN says at least 40 prisoners of war executions on both sides of Ukraine conflict

The UN Human Rights office has accused both Russian and Ukrainian forces of dozens of summary or extrajudicial prisoners of war (POWs) executions since Russia's full-scale invasion more than one year ago.

The report was based on interviews of about 400 POWs — about half Ukrainians who were released — and half with Russians held captive in Ukraine.

The UN, which has had a monitoring team in place since the conflict in the Donbas erupted in 2014, has repeatedly indicated its findings are from confirmed cases, and typically understate the actual toll.

It has documented some 40 extrajudicial executions.

“We are deeply concerned about the summary execution of up to 25 Russian prisoners of war and persons ordered to combat by Ukrainian armed forces, which we have documented,” said Matilda Bogner, Head of UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

“We are also deeply concerned by the summary execution of 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war shortly after being captured by Russian armed forces. The Wagner group, military, and security contractors perpetrated 11 of these executions,” she added.

In early March, a video showing the alleged execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by Russian soldiers sent shockwaves through Ukraine.

Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating some cases, yet none have been taken to court for the moment.

Over 600 disappearances and sexual violence

The UN said they had documented 621 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of civilians by Russian Armed Forces.

“Among the 127 we interviewed after their release, 90% reported that members of the Russian security forces tortured and ill-treated them while in detention. In some cases, including with sexual violence.”

She added that five of these civilians were boys between 14 and 17 years old who had been “forcibly disappeared” by Russian Armed Forces and subjected to “ill-treatment and torture.”