A Ukrainian military leader has dismissed recent footage of soldiers allegedly torturing Russian prisoners of war (POWs) as propaganda amid the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The five-minute video emerged online on Monday, purporting to show Ukrainian soldiers graphically beating and torturing Russian POWs. As the footage gained international attention, various Ukrainian leaders pledged to investigate the matter seriously and take appropriate actions if it was determined to be real.
But Ukrainian military commander General Valerii Zaluzhny hypothesized that the video was staged by Russian forces for propaganda purposes.
“The enemy produces and shares videos with the inhuman treatment of alleged ‘Russian prisoners’ by ‘Ukrainian soldiers’ in order to discredit the Ukrainian defense forces,” Zaluzhny said on Monday, according to multiple outlets.
The Ukrainian military has not yet been able to determine the authenticity of the video, according to The Independent. And per Al Jazeera, a press spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the video should be examined “in the context of both real and information wars.”
Newsweek attempted to reach out to Russian officials for a comment on Zaluzhny’s statement.
During a televised briefing on Tuesday, Oleksandr Kyrylenko, the deputy head of the general staff of the Ukrainian army, said that the country is keeping a close watch on all information pertaining to alleged abuses committed against enemy combatants.
“All information that comes is checked by the armed forces of Ukraine and, if there is violation, appropriate legal decisions will be made regarding those military personnel who violated the laws on the treatment of prisoners of war,” Kyrylenko said.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an aide to Zelensky, condemned the video in a statement while also urging all soldiers to refrain from actions such as those allegedly depicted in the footage.
“We are a European army, and we do not mock our prisoners. If this turns out to be real, this is absolutely unacceptable behavior,” he said, The Guardian reported. “I would like to remind all our military, civilian and defense forces once again that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime that has no amnesty under military law and has no statute of limitations.”
The Russian government, meanwhile, has come out strongly against the video. In a statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov decried the graphic treatment of alleged Russian soldiers in the footage as “monstrous images.” He called for a full investigation into it, with consequences for those deemed responsible.