From Strategic Stability
Report # 115. Humanitarian policy of Russia and Ukraine: striking difference
August 3, 2022
On August 3rd, 2022 Colonel General Alexander Fomin, Deputy Defence Minister, Russian MoD, addressed foreign military attachés accredited in Moscow. His statement was dealt with the humanitarian aspects of the Special Military Operation or SMO.
In particular, he briefed the foreign military diplomats on the efforts being made by the Russian Federation to observe the norms of international humanitarian law with regard to prisoners of war.
“Since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has taken comprehensive measures to comply with international humanitarian law.
The relevant instructions to Russian servicemen were given by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Alexander Fomin stated that the MoD work is based on the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the Manual on International Humanitarian Law for the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, approved by order of the Russian Minister of Defence. The manual is a supplement to the statutory instruments and includes the main provisions of international humanitarian law, as well as recommendations for its application in the preparation for and during combat operations.
Painstaking efforts are being made to treat the detained Ukrainians in accordance with international humanitarian law, especially the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
Close contacts have been established with the relevant United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide humanitarian assistance to the population living in the territories liberated from the Ukrainian Nazis and also to work with prisoners of war.
On a regular weekly basis, meetings are held with representatives of international organizations, primarily the UNO and the ICRC, to discuss the most pressing humanitarian issues on the Ukrainian direction. More than 40 such meetings have been held since February 2022.
In accordance with Article 122 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the Russian Ministry of Defence formed a Reference Bureau for Prisoners of War in February this year. The Bureau transmits information on Ukrainian prisoners of war held by the Russian side to the ICRC.
Pursuant to Article 126 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, ICRC visits to places of detention are organised.
All detainees are treated in strict compliance with international humanitarian law: they are provided with decent living conditions, food standards in line with those of the Russian Armed Forces, and all necessary medical care, including complex high-tech operations using modern equipment.
In addition, in accordance with Article 71 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, all detainees are allowed to contact their relatives in Ukraine. Detainees make international phone calls and write letters to their home countries.
More than 1,500 such letters have been forwarded to Ukraine thanks to the ICRC’s assistance.
Together with the UN and the ICRC, operations were successfully conducted in April-May 2022 to evacuate civilians from Azovstal plant and to withdraw AFU troops and “Azov” regiment fighters from this facility.
More than 3,000 people left Azovstal, including more than 2,400 servicemen of the Ukrainian armed forces and fighters from nationalist formations.
The operations were purely humanitarian in nature. Staff of international organisations confirmed the strict observance of international humanitarian law in their conduct.
The ICRC also facilitated a dialogue with Kiev on the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies of fallen servicemen. To date, 27 such actions have been carried out.
Pursuant to Article 112 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the Russian Ministry of Defence has formed a permanent medical commission to examine sick and wounded prisoners of war and to take necessary decisions on them.
The Commission carries out its work in accordance with recommendations and principles drawn from the Geneva Convention.
The sick and wounded are examined and repatriated in a timely manner.
To date, 18 people have been handed over to the Ukrainian side following the commission’s decisions.
Unfortunately, the situation with Ukraine’s compliance with international humanitarian law is quite different.
The videos of torture and abuse posted on the Internet by the perpetrators of the horrific acts of violence against the captured servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces and DPR and LPR are widely known. There have been numerous cases of beatings, deliberate maiming, extrajudicial killings and failure to provide medical care to Russian servicemen.
In addition, Ukrainian Nazis exert psychological pressure on relatives of detained servicemen and extort money from them.
Alexander Fomin shared some statistics summarized from a survey of Russian, DPR and LPR military personnel released from captivity.
81% of servicemen were beaten and physically abused.
55% of servicemen were forcibly involved in filming propaganda videos and videoconferences.
46% of servicewomen did not receive medical treatment.
79% of servicemen were not given the opportunity to contact their relatives.
19% of soldiers were provided with inadequate or poor quality food. For example, at the SSU detention facility in Kiev, food was provided once a day: a piece of bread, 50 grams of porridge and a glass of water. The soldiers were wearing masks covering their eyes at all times.
All these facts are regularly reported to the relevant humanitarian agencies with a request to influence official Kiev.
However, Russian MoD continues to record cases of violations of international humanitarian law, obligations under international conventions and rules of war by the Ukrainian military.
AFU uses civilians as human shields and places heavy weapons in densely populated areas at social facilities, medical institutions and cultural heritage sites.
The shelling of residential areas in DPR and LPR, including with Western-made weapons, continues unabated.
Anti-personnel mines and booby traps prohibited by the 1997 Ottawa Convention are used against civilians, and cluster munitions are also used.
And this is despite Kiev’s claims of alleged compliance with its international obligations under the Convention.
With the patronage of the West, the Kiev authorities do not limit themselves by any moral or legal standards. On a daily basis, members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and nationalist battalions commit crimes that are not properly appreciated by the international community.
The shelling of markets, train stations, residential areas, humanitarian aid distribution points and other crowded places continues in Donetsk, Yasinovataya, Gorlovka, Makeevka, Svyatogorsk and many other settlements and towns in Donbass.
At the same time, a lot of falsified information is being posted on the Internet about alleged crimes committed by servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces.
Such connivance on the part of the international community, as well as the Ukrainian authorities’ desire to hide their crimes, in our opinion, led to the tragedy in Elenovka, where Ukrainian armed forces shelled a place where Ukrainian prisoners of war were held.
On July 29, 2022, at 00:20AM Ukrainian Armed Forces deliberately struck the temporary detention centre in Elenovka in Donetsk People’s Republic (Correctional Colony 120, located 12 km south of Donetsk city) with a US-made HIMARS MLRS.
At the time of the strike, the detention centre was holding prisoners of war, including surrendered “Azov” fighters.
There were 193 people in the block that was hit. Most of them were members of the “Azov” regiment. The shelling killed 50 and injured 73 POWs. Eight staff members of the detention centre were also injured.
The direction of the roof rupture and the focus of the fire directly indicate that the impact was from the northwest direction. The strike came from Maryinka – Kurakhovo – Sergeyevka – Pokrovsk – Udachnoye direction.
The photo shows the distinctive fragments of the rocket that struck the building with “Azov” fighters – they are fragments of the US rocket launcher HIMARS.
Alexander Fomin draw attention of the audience to the analysis of the chronology of events:
On May 20, 2022, surrendered members of “Azov” Nationalist Regiment were taken to the detention centre in Elenovka. The Ukrainian side insisted on this particular place of detention. On July 28, 2022, a video confession of “Azov” crimes by Dmitriy Kozatskyi was published.
As a result, on the night of July 28-29, 2022, an attack was carried out on detention centre in Elenovka.
The Ukrainian leadership gave the order to launch a missile strike as captured “Azov” regiment fighters started giving testimonies revealing their crimes, including against civilians.
The speaker acquainted the participants in the briefing with the statements of Ukrainian servicemen who were held in detention centre in Elenovka.
A large number of Ukrainian soldiers are now voluntarily laying down their arms, knowing the humane treatment of prisoners of war on the Russian side. The provocation in Elenovka is intended to intimidate AFU soldiers and is an attempt to counter their surrender.
It is an established practice that the Ukrainian authorities, without citing any evidence, try to shift the responsibility for the deaths of Ukrainian prisoners of war onto the Russian Federation.
Unfortunately, the chorus of unsubstantiated accusations against us is increasingly being joined by representatives of the Western leadership.
At the same time, the US indirectly admitted to the fact that the AFU had launched a strike on Elenovka.
Pentagon website posted a statement from a senior US Department of Defense official that quote, “if it did happen to be a Ukrainian strike, they didn’t mean to do it…” end of quote. We regard this statement as a clumsy attempt to justify the Kiev regime’s provocation.
The US claims that HIMARS are highly accurate and hit exactly the targets they were aimed at.
At the same time, Kiev stresses that the AFU actively uses space and aerial reconnaissance data received from the US Armed Forces and their allies in planning fire strikes, while US representatives are preparing firing missions. The totality of these facts only confirms the guilt of the Kiev regime for the murder of its citizens.
To conclude the briefing, Deputy Defence Minister mentioned once again the reasons why the Ukrainian Armed Forces struck at detention centre in Elenovka.
The Kiev authorities seek to eliminate witnesses and perpetrators of their crimes against their own people.
Zelensky advocates for a unified assessment from the Western community that coincides with the Ukrainian interpretation of these events, blaming the Russian side for the strike on Elenovka.
As for the objectives of the Special Military Operation, they will be met in full, Colonel General Alexander Fomin concluded.