NARRATIVES: 1. Ukraine has refused to comply with the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war; 2. The UN has asked Ukraine to no longer torture Russian soldiers.
CONTEXT/LOCAL ETHOS: After the start of the war against Ukraine on February 24 this year, Russia has been faced with a huge resistance in all the regions it wanted to occupy. At the same time, the Kremlin has been faced with the issue of motivating the Russian military. After it became clear that the war in Ukraine could not end in victory for Russia in a few days, the Russian press and the Defense Ministry spokesmen resumed false narratives about the crimes and misbehavior of the Ukrainian troops, this time accusing Kyiv of not complying with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of Russian prisoners, and claiming that the issue has also been discussed at the UN.
The Geneva Conventions are a series of treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland, which set the standards for international humanitarian law. These treaties mainly concern the treatment of non-combatants and prisoners of war. The conventions call for a humane treatment of all non-combatants and prisoners of war. There is ample evidence that the Russian troops have repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions by bombing numerous civilian targets in Ukraine, including medical centers, schools and kindergartens, by summarily executing hundreds of Ukrainians, including civilians, and by committing rape, torture and robbery.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this narrative is to sow hatred and anger in Russian society at the so-called “neo-Nazi” Ukrainian soldiers, in order to gain more popular support for the war the Kremlin is waging in Ukraine. It also seeks to minimize the Western support for Ukraine, but also to divert attention from the war crimes committed by the Russian soldiers.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: In reality, Ukraine has not announced Great Britain or any other state that it refuses to comply with the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. Representatives of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry have described the statements of the Russian Army’s spokesperson as false narratives.
In fact, if we look at the Geneva Convention, also signed by Ukraine, we see that there is no legal possibility to waive compliance with its provisions in case the state is in conflict.
According to Article 142 of the Convention regarding prisoners, if a State wishes to denounce it, the act enters into force only one year after a notification is submitted to that end and or before all prisoners are repatriated. Therefore, Kyiv cannot notify anyone that it refuses to observe the Geneva Convention, nor can it in any way influence the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross. It should also be noted that if a state has denounced the Geneva Convention and is at war with a signatory state, the latter is obliged to respect it.
The statement that the UN has called on Ukraine to no longer torture Russian citizens is not true either. In reality, the UN has called on both Russia and Ukraine to check whether the complaints and footage showing bad treatment of soldiers on both sides are true.
In response, the Ukrainian Parliament, which is the body responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention, instructed the Verkhovna Rada's Human Rights Envoy, Liudmila Denisova, to visit places where Russian prisoners of war are being held. After a series of visits and talks with Russian soldiers, she told the Ukrainian press that they had been treated fairly. She denied the allegations in the Russian press that somebody was torturing the prisoners. “These are recordings made by Russians, which then become fake news”, Denisova said.
OFFICIAL REACTIONS: Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko wrote on his Facebook page that the Russian officials’ statements are not true and aimed at discrediting the relations between Ukraine and the international humanitarian structures, which are saving the victims of Russian aggression and make efforts to bring home the deportees or the prisoners of war. “Despite hundreds of fake news, our state remains faithful to its international obligations under the international law”, Nikolenko wrote.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Ukraine has repeatedly published on its official pages footage and photos of war prisoners from Russia, stressing that all their rights have been observed, in keeping with the Geneva Convention. Human Rights Watch, however, the organization that documented an denounced numerous war crimes committed by the Russian soldiers, including in Bucha, has termed this as a violation of the Geneva Conventions . Also, the BBC has confirmed that a video showing the killing of a captured Russian soldier is real.