By Declan Carey
UKRAINIAN soldiers are being ‘dehumanised’ by Russia according to Amnesty International.
The human rights organisation claimed Russian media is ramping up propaganda that Ukrainian soldiers are neo-Nazis to justify their brutal treatment as prisoners.
Amnesty stated it has already documented evidence of Ukrainian soldiers being executed after capture by Russia.
It has shared its concerns following the surrender of Ukrainian troops in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, called for Ukrainian prisoners of war to be treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions.
He said: “Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol have been dehumanised by Russian media and portrayed in Putin’s propaganda as ‘neo-Nazis’ throughout Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This characterisation raises serious concerns over their fate as prisoners of war.
“Amnesty has documented summary killings of captives by Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as the extrajudicial executions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces in recent weeks. The soldiers who surrendered today must not meet the same fate.
“Prisoners of war must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment and should be given immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“The relevant authorities must fully respect the rights of prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva conventions.”
Ukrainian soldiers battled in Mariupol for more than two months despite being surrounded and cut off from food and water.
The soldiers were ordered to stand down after shortages of medical supplies led to horrific conditions in the industrial plant which was bombed daily.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said last Wednesday that 959 Ukrainian troops had surrendered and 51 were being treated for their injuries.
The ministry revealed that the remainder of the Azovstal defenders were sent to a prison colony in a Russian-controlled area of the Donetsk region.
Videos of captured Ukrainian soldiers lying on beds and being treated were released by Russia following the surrender.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky shared a video message following the announcement of the surrender at Azovstal and said he hoped ‘that we will be able to save the lives of our guys.’
He shared a series of tweets revealing he had discussed the situation with world leaders including Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron.
The fate of the captured Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol remains unclear but it is thought they may be exchanged as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.
The surrender sees the complete Russian occupation of the city of Mariupol which has largely been destroyed.
Russia’s victory in the region offers a landbridge to occupied Crimea and Kherson and frees Russian soldiers fighting in the city for other areas of combat.
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