The United Nations has called on both Russia and Ukraine to launch an investigation after videos emerged of prisoners of war (POWs) being allegedly mistreated.
“We have seen videos from both sides of Ukrainian prisoners of war that have been taken by the Russian side and Russian prisoners of war that have been taken by the Ukrainian side,” the Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Matilda Bogner told a briefing on Monday.
On Sunday, a video emerged showing what appear to be Ukrainian soldiers shooting men who are apparently Russian prisoners in the knees during an operation in the Kharkiv region. During the nearly six-minute-long video, the soldiers are heard saying that they have captured a Russian reconnaissance group operating from Olkhovka, a settlement in Kharkiv that’s roughly 20 miles from the Russian border.
During the video, a group of Russian soldiers can be seen lying on the ground with at least two of the soldiers’ legs bleeding heavily. One man is heard crying out in Russian “my leg, my leg.”
Speaking in an interview posted on YouTube Sunday, senior Ukrainian Presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych stressed that the Ukrainian government “is taking this very seriously and will carry out an “immediate investigation” into the video in question.
The UN is still “in the process of verifying all of the material that has been issued,” Bogner said on Monday, adding that it “raises serious concerns.” CNN has reached out to Bogner’s office for comment on the video allegedly showing Russian soldiers with bleeding legs.
“We do call on the authorities on both sides to do full investigations of the allegations that are raised by these videos,” Bogner said.
“It is important that these types of videos and that any ill treatment that may happen is stopped immediately,” she continued, adding that the UN hopes these investigations will ensure that any perpetrators are “held to account.”
She reminded both countries of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to treat POWs humanely and ensure they “are not exposed to public curiosity and are treated with dignity.”
CNN’s Tim Lister, Celine Alkhaldi, Katherina Krebs and Josh Pennington contributed to this report.
The United Nations and its partners were able to safely deliver food rations, medical supplies, and household items to Kharkiv, Ukraine on Monday, according to a statement from Osnat Lubrani, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine.
The supplies were provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In coordination with the Ukrainian Red Cross, the supplies will also be delivered to “hard-to-reach areas like Izium, Balakliia and Chuhuiv,” Lubrani said
UN Secretary-General António Guterres also discussed UN’s humanitarian work on Monday during a morning press briefing, saying there are now more than 1,000 UN personnel working in Ukraine across eight humanitarian hubs in Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Uzhorod, Chernivitzi, Mukachevo, Luhansk and Donetsk.
Here are some updates on the UN and its partner organizations that he offered:
- In the past month, the UN and its partners have reached nearly 900,000 people, mostly in eastern Ukraine, with food, shelter, blankets, medicine, bottled water, and hygiene supplies
- The World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have reached some 800,000 people in the past month, and are scaling up to reach 1.2 million people by mid-April
- The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have reached more than half a million people with emergency health, trauma and surgery kits
- On Monday, a convoy of trucks brought food, medical and other relief supplies from WFP, WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF to Kharkiv to be delivered to “thousands of people in hard-hit areas”
Ukrainian officials have accused the Russian government of engaging in a policy of deportation, moving civilians — including thousands of children — into Russia against their will and detaining them “like souls for an exchange fund.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said that more than 2,000 children have been “stolen” from the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has been under sustained Russian attack since the early days of the invasion.
Calling the situation in the city a “humanitarian catastrophe,” Zelensky told a collection of independent Russian journalists that “according to our information, more than two thousand children were taken out. That means stolen.”
“Their exact location is unknown. They can be there with or without parents,” Zelensky said. “All in all, it’s a disaster. I can’t tell you what that looks like at all. It’s scary. They hold them like souls for an exchange fund.”
Ukrainian officials have made similar claims regarding other regions. CNN cannot independently verify claims about the number of children taken out of Mariupol and other towns into Russia.
What has been claimed? The Russian Defense Ministry first said on March 20 that 16,434 people, including 2,389 children, had been evacuated from various locations a day before. Those locations included the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, according to the ministry, which said that people left of their own volition.
But the next day, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the same number of children had in fact been forcibly evacuated from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by Russian forces. “Such actions are a gross violation of international law, in particular international humanitarian law,” the ministry said.
Since then, estimates from Ukraine of the number of people deported to Russia have risen.
On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Ukrainian government estimated the number of Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia since the invasion was nearly 40,000.
Those claims were bolstered by Denis Pushilin, the leader of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, who said Sunday that around 1,700 people are being “evacuated” daily from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and other towns.
“An average of about 1,700 people are arriving to the Volodar temporary accommodation center for evacuees every day and, in turn, the same number of people are leaving it,” Pushilin said in a statement on Telegram, referring to a settlement known in Ukrainian as Nikolske, about 13 miles northwest of Mariupol.
“Residents of Mariupol and other settlements that are being liberated from the occupation of the Kyiv regime arrive here,” Pushilin said. “People are provided with basic necessities, medical care, and then evacuated to the Russian Federation.”
Debate over Red Cross office: Amid the disputes over the alleged Russian policy, there has also been wrangling over the role of humanitarian network the Red Cross.
On Friday, Vereshchuk accused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head Peter Maurer of taking a “very questionable decision” to open an office in Rostov – which lies about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Such an office “legitimized” Russia’s deportations, she suggested.
The Red Cross issued a statement rejecting those claims. The ICRC, which generally keeps a low public profile, responded following what it called “false information circulating online” that it was helping Russia move tens of thousands of people out of the country.
It said it had no office in Rostov but is “scaling up our regional set up to be able respond to needs where we see them. Our priority is to ensure a steady supply of lifesaving aid reaches people, wherever they are.”
CNN’s Nathan Hodge, Andrew Carey and Olga Voitovych contributed reporting.
Children make up half of the 3.8 million refugees from Ukraine that have arrived in the European Union since the Russian invasion, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson says.
“The numbers of arrivals is going down,” Johansson said Monday of Ukrainians arriving in the EU. “At the peak, we had 200,000 arrivals per day now it’s down to 40,000 per day,” she said.
Johansson, who was speaking after a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels, added that 800,000 of the 3.8 million arrivals have already applied for temporary protection in the EU.
The official also announced that the EU interior ministers had agreed on an EU-wide platform for registering refugees arriving and applying for temporary protection in the bloc, with “EU-level” coordination for hubs of transport and information.
The EU commissioner noted that common guidance for the reception and support of children, including unaccompanied minors, as well as an anti-trafficking plan had been approved by the EU ministers.
The lack of a uniform approach to managing the influx of refugees during and since the 2015 migration crisis has been a point of contention in the bloc.
Warning for the need of further contingency planning for refugees, she said, “we have to be prepared for many more millions that might need to flee from Ukraine.”
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” the commissioner added.
Russian forces are largely stalled in several parts of Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters Monday.
There have been “no changes” to the situation in Mariupol, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv or Kharkiv, the official said.
“They’ve made no progress in moving towards Kyiv, they’ve made no progress elsewhere in the north, whether its Chernihiv or Kharkiv,” the official said of Russian forces.
In Mariupol, Russian forces continue to use “long-range fires,” but “they have not been able to take Mariupol,” the official said.
There has been no change to the airspace or “maritime environment,” the official added.
Russian forces “aren’t making any advances on Mykolaiv over the course of the weekend,” the official said, “so they are outside the city.”
The official noted that Russian forces have conducted more than 1,370 missile launches in Ukraine since the invasion began.
Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko says the government will not accept any loss of territory to Russia and that despite the war, salaries and pensions are being paid.
“I want to tell you that despite all the war we see right now, our government is still functioning,” Marchenko told CNN’s Julia Chatterley. He said the government is paying salaries and pensions, and $200 to every person who lost their job because of the war.
“It is more than 3 million people now which are refugees and live in European countries temporarily. It is also great damage for our economy,” he said.
Asked about comments made by Ukrainian Military Intel Chief Kyrylo Budanov suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be looking to carve Ukraine in two – like North and South Korea, Marchenko said that Ukraine will not accept any territorial losses.
“We will not accept any losses of our country. We will fight against any possible scenario which moves us toward this,” Marchenko said.
“It is not possible even to mention that we can live without some part of our territory because it is about our economy. It is about our people. It is about our logistics now. Our harbor in Odesa region is blocked. So we need to find another way how to transfer commodities towards Europe and other countries,” added the Finance Minister.
Marchenko added that not enough has been done in terms of sanctions.
“For us, it is important that every Russian citizen suffers and this is why sanctions are very important on this particular matter and our government and our president tried to do everything that’s possible that every Russian citizen understands that the way they support their power is the wrong way,” he added.
The UN has assigned an official to “immediately” explore with Ukrainian and Russian authorities “possible agreements and arrangements for a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced Monday.
The task falls on Martin Griffiths, United Nations under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“A cessation of hostilities will allow essential humanitarian aid to be delivered, and enable civilians to move around safely. It will save lives, prevent suffering, and protect civilians,” Guterres said. “I hope a ceasefire will also help to address the global consequences of this war, which risk compounding the deep hunger crisis in many developing countries that already lack fiscal space to invest in their recovery from the pandemic, and now face soaring food and energy costs.”
Guterres said he hopes Griffiths will be able to travel to both Moscow and Kyiv as soon as possible to start conversations with the parties involved.
The secretary-general also said there are now more than 1,000 UN personnel working in Ukraine, working in eight humanitarian hubs in Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Uzhorod, Chernivitzi, Mukachevo, Luhansk and Donetsk.
“The solution to this humanitarian tragedy is not humanitarian. It is political,” Guterres said, telling reporters later that he believes biological, chemical warfare will and must be avoided.
A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is required after there is “clarity on all vital issues for Moscow,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday.
The West has ignored these issues, despite having been raised by Moscow for years, he added.
“Now, the main thing is to stop pandering to the Ukrainians who only seek to generate an image of negotiations and settlements. They succeeded in this when they sabotaged the Minsk agreements shortly after they inked them in February 2015, and as a result declared that they would not implement them,” Lavrov continued.
“That’s why their ability to mimic the process is well known to us. This time they won’t get away with it. We need a results-based outcome of the negotiations, which will be enshrined by the presidents,” he said.
Some more context: Russia-Ukraine talks are set to resume in-person in Istanbul this week, Lavrov said earlier on Monday during a news conference.
“These negotiations are ongoing. They will be resumed today-tomorrow in Istanbul in-person after a series of video conferences,” Lavrov said. “And we are interested that these negotiations would bring a result and that this result would achieve our fundamental goals,” he said.
“The fact that it was decided to continue negotiations in person is important,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday during a call with journalists.
Peskov said the talks between the two sides are likely to resume Tuesday.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday that a repeat of a refugee crisis such as that of 2015 must be avoided.
“We cannot repeat the situation of 2015, we took in 12% of the refugees, but we cannot do this again now,” Andersson said, speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
“We have to push for an end of this war,” Andersson added. The prime minister also acknowledged Poland’s help in taking in Ukrainian refugees.
In 2015, 156,400 people sought asylum in Sweden, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Sweden was the third-highest recipient of asylum requests after Germany (441,900) and the United States (172,700), per UNHCR data.