The Georgian Legion’s Commander, Mamuka Mamulashvili told Civil.ge that the Legion “has nothing to do” with the filmed incident with Russian prisoners of war in Makiivka village, in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. Mamulashvili emphasized that the claim represents “Russian disinformation”, and that this is “not the first such case.”
Several videos emerged on social media last week and their authenticity has been independently verified by the New York Times. The videos show the scenes from before and after a confrontation between the Ukrainian and Russian troops on November 12.
The first video, filmed by a Ukrainian soldier, shows about a dozen Russian soldiers surrendering and exiting a partially destroyed building with their hands in the air, before lying down on the ground under the watchful gaze of a Ukrainian soldier with a belt-fed machine gun. Another video, filmed apparently from a drone a few minutes after, shows the same Russian soldiers lying dead on the ground, and they appear to have been shot at a close range. The end of the first video – edited out in some social media posts – complicates the story: it seems to show the final Russian soldier exiting the building, without his hands in the air, but with a submachine gun. A gunshot is clearly heard and then the video cuts out, as the Ukrainian soldier drops the mobile phone.
Russian Foreign Ministry claimed on November 19 that the videos are “further evidence of the crimes committed by Ukrainian neo-Nazis” and represent another example of how Ukraine is “flagrantly violating international humanitarian law”. The United Nations urged Ukraine to ensure a “rapid, full, and efficient” investigation into the matter. On November 22, the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office announced that the Luhansk Regional Prosecutor’s Office has taken note of the incident and initiated criminal proceedings under Article 438 (1) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which refers to the violation of the rules of warfare by the Russian troops for “imitated surrender” an act “prohibited by humanitarian law.”
The question of the Ukrainian forces’ culpability may ultimately lie in whether the Russians in the video were killed in the heat of the moment as their comrade fired on the Ukrainian guarding them, or afterward, in an act of revenge.
Georgian Legion involvement?
The article in Le Monde published yesterday, November 22 claimed the 80th Assault Brigade, and specifically, Georgian Legion volunteers were involved in the Makiivka incident. This claim was denied by Mamulashvili, talking to Civil.ge. The Georgian Legion is a prominent group of Georgian and other foreign volunteers that have been fighting in Ukraine since 2014. It has been since integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces structure.
This is not the first time the accusations of war crimes have been leveled at the Georgian volunteers. In April 2022, a group of soldiers on the Ukrainian side, some of whom may have been Georgian, can be seen killing an injured Russian soldier struggling on the ground. The Ukrainians pledged to investigate the incident, but the outcomes of this investigation are not yet known.