On Friday March 4, the Ukrainian authorities broadcast on social networks the images of ten very young Russian soldiers, lined up under the neon lights of a press room in Kiev, their faces hollowed or scratched. Eyes reddened, some stare at the wall or their boots, fleeing the cameras, others seem more at ease. Videos whose soundtrack hints at a bombardment are shown to them. “Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, look what your army is doing”the Ukrainian officer can be heard telling them.
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“You know they’re going to tell your parents you died during drills, not that you were here,” he continues, arguing that they will have ” luck “ to show their families that they are alive. The young soldiers must then decline in front of the cameras their name, that of their unit, the conditions of their arrival in Ukraine. All claim to be well treated and conclude with a message asking the Russians not to believe “to lies” of President Vladimir Putin.
The rules of war apply
The dissemination of these images is strictly prohibited by international law. Under Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention (1949), “Prisoners of war must be protected at all times, in particular against any act of violence or intimidation, against insults and public curiosity”. And even though Kiev speaks of a Russian invasion and Moscow of a special military operation, the rules of war, and therefore those relating to prisoners, apply because it is an international armed conflict.
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“Images of prisoners of war whose faces are visible and therefore recognizable constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, but it is not a war crime”, analyzes the professor of public international law at the University of Geneva Marco Sassoli.
200 Russian prisoners of war captured since the start of the war
In a statement released Monday, March 7, Amnesty International’s Crisis Management Director, Joanne Mariner, said it was essential “that all parties to the conflict fully respect the rights of prisoners of war”. “Any public appearance can put prisoners of war at risk when they are returned to their country of origin, and also prove problematic for their families while in detention”she added.
Since the beginning of the war, 200 Russian prisoners of war have been captured, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. Unverifiable figures, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) not being able to exercise its right to visit captives “due to the current escalation”.