Mar 24, 2023 - World

UN report: Ukrainian and Russian POWs faced torture, executions

A group of Russian prisoners of war are pictured in a Ukrainian colony on Jan. 17. Photo: Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The UN published a report Friday highlighting summary executions, torture, and other instances in which Russia and Ukraine violated international human rights laws in their treatment of prisoners of war.

The big picture: The report comes after another UN report last week found that Russian forces in Ukraine committed an array of violations that amount to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Details: The most recent report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is based on interviews with more than 400 POWs and focuses on how they were treated in the one-year period since Russia attacked Ukraine.

  • Those interviewed include Ukrainian POWs who have been released as well as Russians held captive in Ukraine.
  • UN monitors said they were not given "confidential access" to POWs held by Russia.

What they found: The monitors documented violations that "may constitute war crimes" in the treatment of POWs.

  • Instances under Russia's control include the "summary executions of 15 POWs, the use of POWs as human shields, the deaths of two wounded men POWs due to a lack of medical care, and torture or other ill-treatment to extract information," per the report.
  • The monitors also "documented a widespread practice of pillage of belongings of POWs and evacuation in inhuman conditions, such as in overcrowded vehicles with hands tied and eyes covered, without access to water or toilets."
  • The monitors interviewed 24 women POWs held by Russia as well, finding that 17 of them "were subjected to beatings, electrocution, forced nudity, cavity searches and threats of sexual violence."

Meanwhile, the monitors documented the summary executions of at least 25 Russian POWs at the hands of Ukrainian forces.

  • "OHCHR also documented cases of torture or other forms of ill-treatment against 113 POWs, many of them involving beatings, kicking or, to a lesser extent, stabbing," the report says.

Of note: Ill-treatment of POWs took place on both sides, but was it was far more common against Ukrainians, AP reports.

What they're saying: Matilda Bogner, head of the U.N. monitoring mission in Ukraine, noted at a news conference in Kyiv that while both sides committed abuses, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was at the core of the violence against civilians and POWs, per AP.

Go deeper: Report: Russia relocated 6,000 Ukrainian children for reeducation

Go deeper