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Russian POWs Used As Human Shields During Ukrainian Demining Operations

Russian Prisoners of War

by Lucas Leiroz – South Front.com July 11, 2023

According to information given by an ex-prisoner, Russian soldiers who surrendered to the Ukrainian military were being used as a human shield during demining operations on the battlefield. As well known, prisoners of war (POWs) are protected under international law, which makes the Ukrainian attitude absolutely illegal.

The report was made by a Russian volunteer using the alias “Topaz”. He says that after being captured by the enemy, he was repeatedly humiliated, beaten, tortured, and forced to do works that endangered his life. The same situation happened to other POWs who were with him.

Among these works was the mission to conduct demining operations, clearing the ground for the transit of Ukrainian troops. The “demining” however was not done correctly. There was no appropriate equipment, protection or military technology being applied. POWs were simply sent out to the front lines to walk on the ground with nothing but their own luck. If there were any mine, the POWs would explode along with it.

Topaz told journalists about a specific case that happened to him in the Zaporozhye region, where there is a large minefield. He was forced along with another POWs to march into a danger zone during the night in order to clear the way for Ukrainian troops, who wanted to reach some Russian positions in the area.

“They woke me up at night, at three o’clock in the morning, and another prisoner was forced to get up. They sent a group of Ukrainian servicemen on a mission, and they took two of us as deminers. Demining how? We were compelled to march ahead of the crew, so if suddenly someone [steps on a mine and] gets blown up, I would too and so would the other POW behind me”, Topaz said.

He also said that these demining missions using POWs in Zaporozhye took place for at least eight nights. However, at one of these occasions, Ukrainian units were seen by Russian forces, and the following shooting resulted in the death of several neo-Nazi soldiers and the liberation of the POWs.

As well known, the use of human shields has become commonplace among Ukrainian forces. Kiev’s soldiers always try to avoid casualties among their troops by taking advantage of the vulnerability of civilians and POWs. Since the start of the special military operation, Moscow has repeatedly reported this illegal attitude on the part of enemy forces, but the Western sponsors of the regime remain silent.

Even non-Russian, Western-biased international organizations have recognized since last year Ukraine’s constant use of human shields. For example, in late 2022, Amnesty Internationaladmitted that Kiev troops “have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals”.

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas (…) Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law”, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said at the time.

In addition, also last year, a UN report exposed that Kiev “took up positions either in residential areas or near civilian objects, from where they launched military operations without taking measures for the protection of civilians present”.

In the same vein, Ukrainian crimes against Russian POWs occurred many times throughout the conflict. There are many videos circulating on the internet showing scenes of execution of Russian citizens surrendered by Ukrainian forces, in clear violation of international norms. Russia has reacted to these attitudes through legal measures, such as urging the UN to formally condemn Kiev. Also, according to Moscow’s authorities, the Western powers would also be responsible for the crimes, considering their unrestricted support for the neo-Nazi regime.

There is enough evidence for Kiev to be accused of violating international law and subjecting POWs to forced work that puts their lives at risk. By sending POWs to minefields, the regime is mixing two of its main practices, using human shields and torturing prisoners. Both attitudes clearly violate what is established by the Geneva Convention, which regulates the treatment of POWs prohibiting “violence to life and person, outrages upon personal dignity, (…) cruel treatment and torture (…) humiliating and degrading treatment”.

On the other hand, the Russians have consistently shown goodwill towards enemies, and there are several indications that Ukrainian POWs are indeed treated with dignity. For example, in the first week of July, the authorities of the People’s Republic of Lugansk promoted a collective meetingbetween POWs and members of their families, providing moments of happiness to the captured soldiers, despite all the suffering of the conflict.

This clearly shows the different attitudes on each side. While Kiev tortures POWs and civilians and uses them as human shields, on the part of Moscow there are constant efforts to alleviate the effects of the conflict with humanitarian measures. International organizations should be attentive to these reports, publicly condemning the neo-Nazi regime with sanctions as well as pressuring to stop Western military assistance.


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