UN investigators: Beheading video of Ukrainian POW ‘not an isolated incident’

Switzerland UN Russia Ukraine War Crimes
Jasminka Dzumhur, left, Commissioner of Inquiry on Ukraine, Erik Mose, center, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and Pablo de Greiff, right, Commissioner of Inquiry on Ukraine, speak about the release of comprehensive report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to the Human Rights Council, during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, March 16, 2023. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

UN investigators: Beheading video of Ukrainian POW ‘not an isolated incident’

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New footage that appears to show Russian soldiers beheading a Ukrainian prisoner of war is “not an isolated incident,” according to observers from the United Nations.

The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine wrote on Wednesday: “One of the videos shows a brutal execution of a man who appears to be a Ukrainian prisoner of war, while the other one shows mutilated bodies of apparent Ukrainian servicepersons. Regrettably this is not an isolated incident.”


The beheading video appears to show a Russian soldier cutting through the neck of a Ukrainian prisoner, who writhes and screams as out-of-frame onlookers comment on the technique of the execution. The clip surfaced on social media on Tuesday, prompting Ukrainian officials to condemn “Russian terrorists” and renew their determination for a total liberation of occupied Ukrainian territory.

“There is something that no one in the world can ignore: how easily these beasts kill. This video … the execution of a Ukrainian captive … the world must see it,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday. “This is a video of Russia trying to make just that the new norm. Such a habit of destroying life. This is not an accident. This is not an episode. This was the case earlier. This was the case in Bucha. Thousands of times.”

The provenance of the video was not clear. The atrocity occurred outside, and the greenery stoked some speculation that the footage dates back to last summer. The victim can be heard screaming, “It hurts,” before going silent as he is pinned down while the onlookers seem to expect the perpetrator to demonstrate some expertise in the act.

“Let’s work, brothers! Cut it the f*** off,” one person said, according to a translation from The Insider, an independent Russian media outlet. “Break his spine! Haven’t you ever cut off a f***in’ head before? Go all the way.”

After the decapitation was complete, they displayed the head for the camera. “F***ing bag it and send to the commander,” one man said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates acknowledged that “this is a horrifying video,” but they suggested that it might be fake.

“First of all, it is necessary to verify the authenticity of this terrible video,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday. “And then, of course, this can become a reason to check whether it was so, whether it took place, and if it did, where and by whom exactly. But again, I want to say that first of all, in the world of fakes in which we live now, it is necessary to verify the authenticity of this video.”

The U.N. investigators seemed to accept the video as authentic and “particularly gruesome,” but nonetheless representative of Russian military behavior.

“In recent reports the Mission documented a number of serious violations of International humanitarian law, including those committed against prisoners of war,” the U.N. human rights monitors said. “These latest violations must also be properly investigated and the perpetrators must be held accountable.”

The videos surfaced one month after the U.N. investigators released a report outlining “a widespread pattern of torture and inhuman treatment committed by Russian authorities” in Ukrainian territories that came under their control.

“Torture was particularly severe against current or former members of Ukrainian armed forces and associated persons, and their relatives,” according to the U.N. investigators. “In areas under prolonged Russian control, and in more permanent detention facilities, additional methods of torture were used. One such method was electrocution with a military phone called ‘Tapik’ connected to an electricity cable with clips applied on feet, fingers, or men’s genitals. The perpetrators referred to this as ‘call to Lenin’ or ‘call to Putin.’”

A second video reportedly shows decapitated Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut, the focal point of a stalled offensive by Russian military and Wagner Group mercenary forces over the last several months.

“It is believed that the video was captured by members of the Wagner PMC near Bakhmut,” The Insider reported. “The video depicts a damaged armored vehicle, likely an M113 armored personnel carrier, as well as two decapitated bodies of Ukrainian soldiers.”

Ukrainian authorities cited the video to make the case for diplomatic and military offensives against Russia.

“It’s absurd that Russia, which is worse than ISIS, is presiding over the UNSC,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, referring to Russia’s role as the head of the U.N. Security Council for the month of April. “Russian terrorists must be kicked out of Ukraine and the UN and be held accountable for their crimes.”


Ukrainian and Russian commanders are racing to prepare for a high-stakes clash this spring, when Ukrainian forces are expected to launch a major counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine.

“The defeat of terror is necessary,” Zelensky said. “And we in Ukraine must focus on the front line as much as possible. Help as much as possible. Expel the occupier from our land! The main goal is to win. The main goal is strength for Ukraine to win. Defeat of the occupier, sentences to murderers, Tribunal for the evil state.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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