LONDON (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday it had opened a criminal investigation into allegations by a Russian soldier that he was beaten and received death threats while being held as a prisoner of war in Ukraine.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said the man, identified only by the initial E, was captured after a battle on March 2 in which he was seriously wounded. The soldier, a private, was returned to Russia after a prisoner swap on April 1, it said.
During that time, the Committee said he was repeatedly interrogated by both military personnel and people in civilian clothes with masks on their heads and beaten on the head repeatedly with fists, a brick and a pistol.
In a statement on its website, the Committee provided no visual or other evidence. It was not possible to independently verify the events described.
Ukraine has said it checks all information regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and will investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.
Reuters sought a response from Ukrainian authorities to the Committee’s assertions.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said the soldier’s treatment violated the Geneva Conventions that prohibit the abuse of prisoners of war. It opened a criminal case against “unknown persons” and it was unclear how it intended to track down those involved or hold them responsible.
The case follows widespread international condemnation of Russia for alleged war crimes after evidence emerged in the past week that civilians had been shot at close range, and some had been buried in a mass grave, in the Ukrainian town of Bucha which had been occupied by Russian troops.
Ukraine has accused Russia of war crimes and genocide. Moscow has called the evidence from Bucha a “monstrous forgery”.
(Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Howard Goller)