Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 28.12.2018
In an act of war on November 25, the Russian Federation captured 24 active duty service members while they were serving aboard Ukrainian Navy vessels. These Ukrainian Navy sailors are prisoners of war and are entitled to the protections of the Third Geneva Convention. The Russians are committing war crimes by denying those protections.
The Russian Federation has been at war with Ukraine since 20 February 2014 when it invaded Crimea. On the 1,739th day of Putin’s War, the Russians attacked the Ukrainian Navy in the Kerch Strait and Black Sea. Three Ukrainian naval vessels were making a peaceful and pre-announced passage from Odesa to Mariupol on November 25, in exactly the same manner as two Ukrainian naval vessels had done successfully on September 23. But on November 25, out of the blue, the Russians launched a purposeful and unprovoked attack. Russian Federation forces rammed the Ukrainian Navy vessels, shot at them from the sea and air, pursued them from the Kerch Strait to international waters of the Black Sea, boarded them, and captured the three boats and crews.
It is now over a month since this open act of war by the Russian Federation. The 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors who were abducted have not been freed. The three Ukrainian Navy vessels that were pirated have not been released. The blockade of Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov (made effective by restricting the passage of merchant ships through the Kerch Strait) has not been lifted. The Russians compound their act of war on November 25 with further acts of war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
All 24 Ukrainian sailors told ‘investigators’ that they are prisoners of war. The last two captives, wounded sailors Andriy Yeyder and Andriy Artemenko, said that they are POWs when they were forced to appear before a sham proceeding of the Russian authorities in Moscow. This information was conveyed on social media on December 27 by Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer who is acting in the interests of the Ukrainian POWs.
Russian authorities are violating the Geneva Convention by subjecting Ukrainian prisoners of war to a criminal proceeding, proffering a bogus charge of “violating the state border of the Russian Federation.”
The Russians break the Geneva Convention by subjecting Ukrainian POWs to physical isolation and psychological intimidation, in an attempt to force them to ‘confess’ to imagined crimes. While the Ukrainian POWs were in Crimea, Ukraine (temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation) some of them were forced to appear on Russian propaganda television to read statements. Making a public spectacle of POWs is a war crime under the Geneva Convention.
The Putin regime has refused to allow delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the Ukrainian POWs. The Ukrainian Navy sailors are not being held in facilities for prisoners of war, but in prisons for criminals – this too is a war crime and a violation of the Geneva Convention.
International war is being fought in the heart of Europe. This has been so for almost five years as the Russian Federation has been invading and occupying Ukraine in Crimea and in part of Donbas. Russian aggression against Ukraine is now open and undisguised since Putin directed his forces to attack the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea on November 25. Ukrainian Navy sailors captured in that engagement are prisoners of war. They all have claimed and all are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. Russian officials who fail to treat captive Ukrainian sailors as POWs, from Putin on down, are violating the Geneva Convention and are committing war crimes.