The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned: This winter may be a “life-threatening” experience for “millions” of Ukrainians.
Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, has warned: Up to three million Ukrainians are expected to migrate “in search of warmth and safety.” Kluge made this warning on Monday during a press conference in Kiev.
“We expect 2-3 million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety. They will face unique health challenges, including respiratory infections such as Covid 19, pneumonia and influenza, and the serious risk of diphtheria and measles in under-vaccinated populations,” Kluge said.
Those who remain at home will likely be forced to opt for “alternative heating method,” the WHO official said, warning that doing things “like burning charcoal or wood, or using generators fueled by diesel, or electric heaters” carry health risks as well.
They include “exposure to toxic substances that are harmful for children, older people and those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, as well as accidental burns and injuries,” he said.
The ongoing conflict is also taking a heavy toll on the mental health of Ukrainians, according to Kluge. Some 10 million of them are already “at risk of mental disorder such as acute stress, anxiety, depression, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD,” the official said.
According to the latest UN figures, more than 7.8 million refugees from Ukraine have migrated to Europe amid the conflict between Moscow and Kiev that broke out in late February. Some 4.7 million of them have been registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes across the EU. A sizable portion of the refugees have gone to Russia, with more than 2.8 million recorded in the country.
Pentagon Chief Warns: Harsh Winter Ahead For Ukraine
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned on Saturday that Ukraine faces a “harsh winter,” as Russia continues missile strikes on its infrastructure. Earlier, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, suggested that Kiev should take the opportunity to talk with Moscow.
Speaking at the Halifax Security Forum in Canada, Austin cautioned that “hard times lie ahead as Ukraine faces a harsh winter.”
Although Ukraine has received tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons from the U.S. and NATO, Russian drone and missile strikes have been pounding its command centers and energy infrastructure since early October. These launches have, according to Ukrainian authorities, left 40% of the country’s power infrastructure destroyed or damaged.
In his address on Saturday, Austin claimed that Ukraine’s population would rather go without electricity and heat than have talks with Moscow. However, he reiterated that the U.S. would “not drag into Putin’s war,” but would continue to funnel arms to Kiev.
New York Times: Videos Showing Execution Of Russian POWs In Ukraine Are Authentic
The New York Times says it has verified the authenticity of videos that surfaced online last week, showing the execution of captive Russian soldiers by Ukrainian troops. The men “appear to have been shot dead at close range,” according to the newspaper.
The events shown in the clips occurred in the village of Makeyevka in the People’s Republic of Lugansk, earlier this month, the newspaper reported on Sunday.
“The videos whose authenticity has been verified by The New York Times, offer a rare look into one gruesome moment among many in the war, but do not show how or why the Russian soldiers were killed,” the NYT wrote, adding that what actually happened to the soldiers remains “a mystery.”
However, the outlet noted out that judging by the footage, “at least 11 Russians appear to have been shot dead at close range after one of their fellow fighters suddenly opened fire on Ukrainian soldiers standing nearby.”
The NYT also cited Dr. Rohini Haar, medical adviser at Physicians for Human Rights, who said that “killing or wounding a combatant, who, having laid down his arms or having no longer means of defense, has surrendered at discretion” is a violation of the laws of international armed conflict.
“It looks like most of them were shot in the head,” Haar said of the Russian soldiers in the clips. “There are pools of blood. That indicates that they were just left dead. There appears to have been no effort to pick them up or help them.”
In one of the videos, which appeared on social media, the Russian servicemen were shown surrendering to Kiev troops and lying down on the ground, before a second clip showed their bodies lying motionless in pools of blood. Another video with no sound, which is also believed to have been made at the scene, purportedly showed a Russian soldier emerging from a building and shooting at the Ukrainians. It is unclear whether that second clip is linked to the alleged execution. At least one of Kiev’s fighters was allegedly injured in the incident, according to the footage. It is unclear how this particular episode was linked to what happened to the Russians next.
Investigate Execution Of Russian POWs: UN Tells Ukraine
The UN’s human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine has called on Kiev to probe a video that apparently shows the country’s troops executing Russian prisoners of war.
The UN body told the news agency AP on Saturday that it “is aware of the video and is looking into it,” adding: “we reiterate our call that all such allegations should be properly and promptly investigated by respective authorities.”
The Russian Presidential Human Rights Council calling the incident a “demonstrative and audacious crime.” The council demanded an international investigation, and said that it had notified the UN, Council of Europe, Amnesty International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, however, said that not only does the footage depict the “barbarous killing of Russian prisoners of war,” it shows “a widespread practice of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that is actively supported by the Kiev regime and outright ignored by its Western backers.”
Back in March, another shocking video emerged showing Ukrainian troops shooting captured Russian soldiers in the legs at point-blank range, while other wounded Russians lie on the ground nearby. Countless other videos of Russian troops being mistreated by their Ukrainian captors have also surfaced online in the months since Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine began in late February.
U.S. Downplays The Execution Of Russian POWs
While acknowledging concern over videos that showed Ukrainian forces executing captured Russian soldiers, the U.S. war crimes envoy has argued that allegations against Kiev’s forces pale in comparison to Moscow’s alleged atrocities.
“We are obviously tracking that quite closely,” Beth Van Schaack, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, told reporters in a telephone briefing on Monday. “It is really important to emphasize that the laws of war apply to all parties equally, both the aggressor state and the defender state, and this is in equal measure.”
However, Van Schaack added, “when it comes to the war in Ukraine, that is really where the equivalency ends. When we are looking at the sheer scale of criminality exhibited by Russian forces, it is enormous compared to the allegations that we have seen against Ukrainian forces.”
The envoy also claimed that Kiev has dealt with allegations of wrongdoing more responsibly.
“Russia inevitably responds with propaganda, denial, mis- and disinformation, whereas the Ukrainian authorities have generally acknowledged abuses and have pledged to investigate them,” she said.
Officials in Kiev have denied that Ukrainian forces executed Russian prisoners. President Vladimir Zelensky has also denied Russian allegations of his government’s involvement in other atrocities, such as the assassination of journalist Darya Dugina in a Moscow suburb – which U.S. intelligence has attributed to Kiev.
Moscow Accuses Ukrainian Soldiers killing Russian POWs
Earlier reports said:
The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of committing a war crime after a video surfaced on social media, on Friday, which appears to show captured Russian servicemen first alive and subsequently dead.
The ministry described the video as evidence of “the deliberate and methodical murder” of over ten Russian servicemen at the hands of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, who “shot them straight in their heads.” Such actions prove the “barbaric nature” of the government in Kiev led by President Vladimir Zelensky, as well as “all those, who defend and support it,” the statement added.
Moscow will send the information on the alleged execution of Russian captives to the UN Human Rights Office, the Council of Europe, as well as Amnesty International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.