Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation to find the killers of an unarmed prisoner of war, after footage of the shooting emerged online.
President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to “find the murderers” after a video showing an apparently unarmed man being gunned down by unseen shooters was circulated on social media.
The 12-second video seen by The Independent shows the unidentified man in uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area.
The man says “Slava Ukraini!” – or Glory to Ukraine – before multiple shots are fired. The man slumps to the ground as he appears to have been shot. A voice is heard saying “Die, b***h” in Russian.
In his video address, Mr Zelensky said: “I want us all in unity to respond to his words, ‘Glory to the hero. Glory to the heroes. Glory to Ukraine.’ And we will find the murderers.”
Meanwhile, foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called for an immediate investigation by the International Criminal Court.
The authenticity, date or location of the video has not been verified. Russia has not commented.
A prominent lawyer who had been wounded while fighting in eastern Ukraine last year said he was collecting money for a reward to anyone who identified those responsible. He personally pledged $1,000.
Andriy Kostin, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said on Telegram that Ukraine’s security service had registered the shooting as a criminal case under a part of the country’s criminal code that covers violations of war laws and customs.
“Even the war has its own laws,” he said, adding that prosecutors from his office would lead the case.
“There are rules of international law systematically ignored by the Russian criminal regime. But sooner or later, there will be punishment.”
The head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said the man was a Ukrainian prisoner of war and that the incident was part of a “deliberate policy of terror” by Russia.
“The murder of a captive is the latest Russian war crime,” Yermak wrote in a tweet. “For every such war crime there will be retribution.”
Ukrainian and Western authorities say there is evidence of thousands of war crimes committed in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. Russia has repeatedly denied that its forces have committed atrocities or attacked civilians.
“Before his death, (the man) reminded all of us of the meaning of the words ‘Glory to Ukraine!,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram.
“And I also want every occupier before their death to remember this photo: a Ukrainian soldier with a cigarette and a fearless look.”