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‘Horrific’ video apparently showing castration of Ukrainian fighter condemned

A war crimes prosecutor kneels near a university facility in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, that was shelled on July 15. (Wojciech Grzedzinski for The Washington Post)
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ODESSA, Ukraine — Amnesty International and the European Union have backed Kyiv in calling for an investigation into footage circulating online that appears to show pro-Russian forces castrating and executing a captive Ukrainian fighter.

Ukrainian officials pledged to identify the perpetrators after a series of gruesome videos recently surfaced on pro-Russian Telegram channels showing a group of men, one of them seen wearing pro-Russian symbols, castrating and executing a prisoner dressed in military fatigues with Ukrainian military insignia.

“This horrific assault is yet another apparent example of complete disregard for human life and dignity in Ukraine committed by Russian forces,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said Friday.

In a roughly 1½-minute-long video, a man dressed in military fatigues, wearing a “Z” patch and an orange-and-black ribbon associated with Russian forces, castrates the bound prisoner using a green utility knife.

A separate video shared on pro-Russian Telegram channels shows a single shot being fired into the prisoner’s head.

The Washington Post was unable to confirm the date or location of where the videos were filmed.

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Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described the men in the footage as Russian “propagandists” delighting in torture. “But the fog of war will not help to avoid punishment for the executioners,” he tweeted. “We will identify and get to each of you.”

Social media users, investigative journalists and members of conflict intelligence groups have been poring over other footage of Russian forces available online, in an attempt to identify the men shown in the videos. The Post was unable to identify the captive in the footage.

Aric Toler, director of research and training at the investigative collective Bellingcat, said the presence of the “Z” symbol, which has become an emblem of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on a car in the background in one video “goes against some claims ... that the video may be old and just now emerging after a year or two.”

The E.U.’s top diplomat described the footage as an example of the “inhumane, barbaric acts” that amount to war crimes.

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“Evidence in form of appalling video footage has been widely shared on pro-Kremlin social networks today, in which Russian soldiers commit a heinous atrocity against a Ukrainian prisoner of war,” Josep Borrell said Friday in reference to the gruesome videos. “The European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces and their proxies.”

There has been no official comment from Moscow on the allegations.

Amnesty’s statement said the London-based rights group has documented crimes under international law during Russia’s war on Ukraine, including summary killings of captives of Russian-backed separatists and extrajudicial executions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces.

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After the withdrawal of Russian forces from Kyiv’s suburbs earlier in the conflict, images of bodies lying in the streets and evidence of torture in Bucha, near the capital, prompted global outrage — and more Western sanctions against Russia. Moscow has dismissed the accusations.

As Russian bombs pummel Ukrainian cities, Kyiv says it is collecting evidence around the country to investigate and prosecute hundreds of alleged war crimes by Russian forces during the war, now in its sixth month.

In April, a Ukrainian official said an investigation would be launched after a graphic video shared online showed the apparent killing by Ukrainian forces of a Russian fighter lying on the ground.

Francis reported from London.