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Latest in Ukraine: Ukrainian Leaders Condemn Alleged Decapitation of Captive


FILE - A Ukrainian serviceman with the 95th Brigade protects his ears from artillery noise, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at the front line in the region of Lyman, Ukraine, April 7, 2023.

New developments:

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal at the Pentagon to discuss U.S. support for Ukraine.
  • Ukraine says its forces repelled 72 attacks over the past day by Russian forces in the east as intense fighting continued around Bakhmut, Radio Free Europe reported.
  • Russia’s defense ministry said it conducted a successful test launch of what it called an “advanced” intercontinental ballistic missile.

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday opened an investigation into a video on social media purportedly showing one of Kyiv’s soldiers being beheaded.

News agencies could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message, "There is something that no one in the world can ignore: how easily these beasts kill."

Zelenskyy said the video showed the “execution of a Ukrainian captive” and that “everyone must react. Do not expect that it will be forgotten, that time will pass.”

The video appears to show a man in green fatigues with a yellow armband, typically worn by Ukrainian fighters. His screams are heard before another man in camouflage uses a knife to decapitate him. The man in camouflage and another man both speak Russian.

Ukraine’s state security service has opened an investigation, said Vasyl Maliuk, head of the agency. Officials are studying the video to identify those responsible, as well as to identify the victim.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the footage “horrible” but said that its authenticity needed to be verified.

Ukraine's human rights chief Dmytro Lubinets said he will request that the U.N. Human Rights Committee investigate.

Lubinets wrote on Telegram that "a public execution of a captive is yet another indication of a breach of Geneva Convention norms, international humanitarian law, a breach of the fundamental right to life."

A Ukrainian soldier smokes as he rests in war-hit Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 12, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier smokes as he rests in war-hit Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 12, 2023.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of committing war crimes and targeting civilians during its invasion of Ukraine, now in its 14th month, while Moscow says it has only targeted military sites and electrical and water infrastructure.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of war crimes in the abductions of children from Ukraine.

Andrei Medvedev, a Russian state TV journalist, said the release of the gruesome video on social media was “fairly opportune” for the Ukrainian army ahead of a spring counteroffensive.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, also linked the video's release to the expected offensive. While Medvedev said it was designed to “fire up personnel,” Podolyak said it was meant to demoralize the public or change their perception of the war.

CIA Director William Burns mentioned the expected spring counteroffensive by Ukraine on Wednesday night at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

He said the challenge facing Ukraine on the battlefield, “is to puncture that sense of arrogance on Putin’s part, to convince him and his generals that not only are they not going to be able to advance further into Ukraine, but that … they risk losing more and more of what they have illegally seized right now.”

Burns also said Russia’s military “has its hands full” in dealing with Ukraine’s military and that he does not think Putin is eager for a confrontation with NATO. Burns said U.S. President Joe Biden has also made clear the United States does not want direct involvement in the conflict.

“But as you know very well … there can be inadvertent collisions,” Burns said. “We saw one of them over the Black Sea recently, as well. And so that puts a premium on communicating very directly and very firmly, what the consequences of some of those can be.”

VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some material also came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.