Horrific video has emerged that appears to show a Russian soldier castrating a Ukrainian prisoner who other reports suggest was subsequently murdered.
The footage, reviewed by the Guardian, was originally posted on pro-Russian Telegram channels.
A Russian soldier, wearing a distinctive black wide-brimmed hat, is seen approaching another figure who has his hands bound and is lying face down with the back of his trousers cut away. The prisoner is wearing blue and yellow patches identifying him as Ukrainian.
The soldier in the hat, who is wearing blue surgical gloves, is holding a green-handled knife and reaches down to mutilate the prisoner as other soldiers abuse the prisoner.
While much is unknown about the provenance and date that the footage was recorded – and where – there are claims that the Russian soldier was previously filmed in the vicinity of the Azot chemical works in Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine and that he was serving with a Chechen formation known as the Akhat battalion.
While the Guardian has been unable to independently verify the authenticity of the footage, it has been widely shared on pro-Russian media sites as well as on Ukrainian social media, with some Russian users posting images mocking the mutilated soldier.
Among those commenting on the video were Ukrainian and western analysts who expressed their horror.
The Australian former general and military analyst Mick Ryan tweeted: “In the last day or so, a video showing Russian soldiers conducting a hideous and repulsive act against a defenceless Ukrainian prisoner of war has circulated. While I will not amplify this, I wanted to provide some thoughts.
“First, from a purely human level, I am sickened that one human will do this to another. It is a depraved and inhuman act – there is nothing that justifies it. Second, as a soldier, it breaks my heart to see a fellow soldier – now a non-combatant – being treated in such a way. No soldier deserves such disgusting treatment.”
Aric Toler, head of research and training at the investigative outlet Bellingcat, suggested that the video appeared to be authentic and that a Russian soldier wearing the same distinctive black hat and wristband as the man in the video had previously appeared in a clip aired by the Russian broadcaster RT.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s eastern Europe and central Asia director, said the footage “was yet another apparent example of complete disregard for human life and dignity in Ukraine committed by Russian forces.
“All those suspected of criminal responsibility must be investigated and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to the death penalty.”
The video has prompted widespread disgust and horror in Ukraine, with officials in Kyiv vowing to punish the perpetrators.
The Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted: “All the world needs to understand: Russia is a country of cannibals who enjoy torture and murder. But the fog of war will not help to avoid the punishment of the executioners. We identify everyone. We will get everyone.”