In Severodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine, a member of the Ukrainian armed forces was captured by Russian forces. They bound his hands behind his back with a zip-tie and attempted to strip him of his pants. When he resisted, they stomped him in the face while he was on the ground, rendering him unconscious. Then, one of the Russian soldiers armed with a green retractable box cutter used it to castrate him. He was careful to use a plastic bag to prevent getting any blood on his hands. Absent immediate medical treatment, the Ukrainian soldier likely died from blood loss.
The video of the war crime was then posted to the social media platform Telegram where it received a large number of positive comments.
The perpetrator appears to be a Kalmyk, which is an ethnic Mongolian minority living mostly in Russia. His face is badly scarred on the left side, displacing his nose, with disfigurement of both his left eye and the left side of his mouth.
He appears in military kit fairly standard to Russian soldiers and is armed with a Dragunov SVD.
As for which unit he might be from, it appears that he is in a Chechen unit operating in Severodonetsk. There is more than one video of men in this unit, castrating and then killing Ukrainian soldiers who fall into their hands.
Here is a censored video of the atrocity. It is almost worse with the blurred-out area forcing our imaginations to fill in the blanks.
— A guy from Ukraine🇺🇦 (@UkrainianIsHere) July 28, 2022
It would be easy to explain this latest war crime committed by Russian troops as yet another example of the normal way of war for Russia and that is not far from the truth. Brutality is the default of any Russian army throughout history and compassionate treatment is the exception rather than the norm. Such compassion is typically done for the cameras and the press for international consumption.
While there is rightful outrage at the torture and murder of POWs on either side, these things do not happen in a vacuum. They have causes and effects. On the Russian side, there has been a consistent propaganda effort to dehumanize Ukrainians as Nazis, Banderites, drug addicts, and other pejoratives for the consumption of Russian civilians to try and increase popular support for their “Special Military Operation.” It even goes as far as claiming that Ukraine really isn’t a country at all, but an integral part of Russian territory with its people belonging to Russia as well. Were Russia able to take the country, there would follow an extensive Russia-fication of Ukraine to wipe out its language and culture. This is Ethnic Cleansing.
In Ukraine, Russians are portrayed as evil and brutish monsters bent on the annihilation of their country, language, and culture. While the Zelensky government has gone to some lengths to ensure that Russian prisoners are treated humanly and there have been numerous prisoner exchanges between the two countries some things slip out that suggest Zelensky doesn’t have as much control as he would like.
In March, less than a month after the invasion, a Ukrainian doctor named Gennadiy Druzenko gave an interview on Ukrainian TV where he said the following,
‘I have always been a great humanist and said that if a man is wounded, he is no longer an enemy but a patient.
‘But now [I gave] very strict orders to castrate all [captured Russian] men, because they are cockroaches, not people.’
The doctor, who is actually a lawyer by education did attempt to clarify his remarks by saying that his hospital would save lives but then posted this remark on Facebook, “We are going to kill. Not prisoners – (but the) brutal b*****ds who rape my land.”
The Russians would have certainly exploited this for their own propaganda purposes by telling their troops that falling into Ukrainian hands would mean being castrated themselves. It may also have something to do with Russians doing the same thing to Ukrainian troops and posting it on social media. A distinction can still be drawn here. US and NATO support is not without conditions on Ukraine that without a doubt would include their humane treatment of POWs. There is no one to put that kind of pressure on Russia.
In March. Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe and then in early June, the Russian Parliament passed two bills that would place the country beyond the reach of the European Court of Human Rights, which is part of the Council. Both bills passed unanimously except for a single vote in opposition cast by a member of the communist party. This signals that Russia has no intention of abiding by any rules or conventions that would regulate their conduct in this war or try to impose accountability on their leadership for war crimes.
In October 2019, Vladimir Putin revoked an additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions related to the protection of victims of international armed conflict. The Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Convention was ratified by the Soviet Union’s Supreme Council, in 1989. In his October 16th letter addressed to the speaker of the lower house of parliament on the “recall of the statement made at the ratification”, Putin claimed the international commission, set up in order to investigate war crimes against civilians, “has effectively failed to carry out its functions since 1991”. He went on in the letter to say, “In the current international environment, the risks of the commission’s power abuse by the states, which are acting in bad faith, are increasing significantly.” This repudiation of the additional protocol gave Russia cover amidst widespread accusations that Russia had engaged in war crimes against civilians in Syria.
Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhnyi issued a statement overnight regarding this and other recent Russian atrocities:
“Russia is a terrorist state. The atrocities committed by the Russians against our prisoners of war are infuriating. We will take revenge for every dead or maimed brother…Unlike Russian war criminals, we adhere to the letter and norms of international humanitarian law. At the same time, we will do everything both possible and impossible to punish those guilty of crimes against our brothers, sisters, and peaceful citizens….These crimes have no statute of limitations. The perpetrators should know this, you will have nowhere to hide on Earth.”