Amnesty alleges summary killings by rebels in Ukraine

A human rights group says it has new evidence of “execution-style killings” by pro-Russian armed groups in eastern Ukraine and is calling for greater accountability for human rights violations in the Ukrainian conflict.

Amnesty International said that the evidence is a new indicator of the escalating human rights crisis in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting with Ukrainian security forces for the past year.

Amnesty says it has reviewed video footage showing the seizure and interrogation of Ukrainian soldier Ihor Branovytsky by pro-Russian rebels. Amnesty says he was later killed in captivity.

Amnesty said it has also seen videos documenting the captivity and photos of the dead bodies of at least three other Ukrainian soldiers. It says the bodies, with signs of bullet holes to the heads and upper bodies, are reportedly being held in the morgue in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. The soldiers were captured by pro-Russian forces in Debaltseve between February 12 and 18.

The revelations follow a report in The Kiyv Post newspaper on April 6 that featured a phone interview with the leader of a pro-Russian armed group operating in eastern Ukraine. The leader claims to have shot dead 15 soldiers, including Ihor Branovytsky.

Amnesty is calling for an independent investigation into these and other allegations of human rights abuses that have taken place since the conflict began. It says summary killings, such as those alleged in these reports, are a war crime and anyone perpetrating them should be removed from his position.

“Summary killings are a war crime, plain and simple. The leaders of the self-styled ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in eastern Ukraine must send their members a clear message: those who fight with them or on their behalf must respect the laws of war, said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director.