Twitter has posted several videos that appear to depict the brutal treatment of Russian prisoners-of-war by Ukrainian troops. The videos come from pro-invasion sources and other boosters of Putin’s Ukraine adventure. This doesn’t mean they aren’t true; it only means that without forensic analysis, we are in the “cool story, bruh” stage of the investigation. I’m not going to post the videos here because some of them are disturbing. For those who are interested, I have provided links below.
Videos of PW abuse allegations
Russians get shot in their legs when they jump off of a truck. They are then beaten. Link.
Russians were more active in shooting the legs. Link.
Russians (allegedly wounded) lying on the ground. No context. Link.
The video contains no context and more leg shooting. Link.
Execution of Russian prisoner alleged Link.
Another group of alleged Russian prisoners was allegedly executed. Link.
First, these videos don’t prove anything. In my view, the whole “shoot them in the leg” video series is probably bullsh**. It doesn’t make sense from a lot of standpoints. The biggest flaw is that a military rifle bullet going through the center of someone’s leg will likely rupture the femoral artery, and the person will bleed out. All of the people “shot in the leg” who don’t die will end up in a hospital competing for space and medicine with Ukrainian soldiers.
You can assume that the video was legitimate if you consider it to be a case of brutal warfare in a large country. You shouldn’t be shocked. In World War II there were many documented mass executions of German or Italian prisoners by the US Army. The most notable was in Sicily during liberation of Dachau. War crimes have been proven to be committed in Vietnam, Iraq (My Lai Incident, Hill 192 Incident), and Afghanistan. It does happen. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but it means that sane people don’t froth at the mouth.
You can believe the document war crimes. However, there are no grounds to consider them legitimate. There is also little reason (given their clustering) to think they are part of an intelligence operation.
That said, let’s approach the problem from a worst-case perspective. Let’s assume that these videos actually document the abuse, maltreatment, and summary execution of Russian prisoners of war in Ukrainian custody. Let me share the main points I have seen.
- It is wrong to maltreat prisoners. Period. It’s all the time. There are no exceptions.
- Harmful treatment of prisoners can be a corrosive factor in disciplining others. Once you’ve allowed troops to execute prisoners summarily, you lose the ability to enforce military discipline because you are complicit in a war crime.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces should investigate these videos to verify their legitimacy and ensure that offenders are dealt with. This is the duty of a professional army force. One wouldn’t expect the Russian Army to do that, and the Ukrainian Army should not aspire to that abysmal example of military behavior.
- It is wrong to abuse prisoners. When things get difficult for an army, an enemy will not surrender if he knows they will be treated fairly.
- A powerful weapon is the proper treatment of Russian prisoner. Ukraine, for example, allows prisoners to call their home. It is a good example of psychological operation and propaganda. Zelensky shouldn’t let some men ruin his work with their fangs.
- Ukraine is in an uneasy conflict, which is just as much political than it is militarily. Ukraine is likely to run out of weapons and supplies if it does not receive international assistance. One stupid goal, such as the killing of prisoners by videotape can change the strategic picture instantly. The Vietnam War was represented in one picture. Even though the communist who saw his brains blow over Saigon streets was a murderer and had been fighting against the Geneva Conventions, he got what he wanted.
Today, 53 years ago: South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc loan, head of the National Police executed Nguyen Van Leem, a Viet Cong suspect, on a Saigon Street.
It fundamentally changed the American public’s perception of war. pic.twitter.com/KbBzQOWWoJ
— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) February 2, 2021
I don’t doubt that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. They are well-known. Putin, Shoigu Gerasimov and other Russians have been accused of numerous overt crimes. Each day, Russians strike civilian centers with indiscriminate missile attacks. Russian security forces deported thousands of Ukrainians to Russia from Mariupol. Russia issued an ultimatum to Mariupol’s defenders, promising to commit war crimes if they did not surrender Mariupol Defenders Reject Russian Demand for Surrender Setting up the Largest Siege of a City Since WWII. However, just because Russia has committed war crimes doesn’t excuse Ukraine from the accusations of war crimes that they have been made.