Fears Ukrainian POWs have been coerced to fight against their fellow citizens by Russia, says ISW

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Fears Ukrainian POWs have been coerced to fight against their fellow citizens by Russia, says ISW
Russian servicemen take part in military exercises at the Uspenovskyi training ground outside the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, on September 4, 2022.Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images
  • Russia is training Ukrainian prisoners of war to fight on the front lines, Russian media reported.
  • The soldiers come from penal colonies in the Russian-occupied part of Donetsk Oblast.
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Russian authorities are planning to deploy a battalion of Ukrainian prisoners of war to the front lines, Russian media reported.

The "Bogdan Khmelnitsky" battalion was created earlier this year in the Russian-occupied part of Donetsk Oblast, its commander, Andrii Tyshchenko, told RIA Novosti.

The outlet described it as a volunteer battalion including about 70 prisoners from various penal colonies.

About 95% of the troops were former Ukrainian soldiers with combat experience, Tyshchenko said. A Russian battalion consists of two-to-four companies and has from 250 to 1,000 people.

"Russian authorities have likely coerced Ukrainian prisoners of war into joining a 'volunteer' formation that will fight in Ukraine, said the Institute for the Study of War.

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Forcing prisoners of war to fight would violate the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, which says that "no prisoner of war may at any time be sent to or detained in areas where he may be exposed to the fire of the combat zone" and should not "be employed on labor which is of an unhealthy or dangerous nature," said the think tank.

The battalion is in training and is preparing to be deployed to an unspecified part of the front lines, the outlet said.

RIA Novosti claimed that some of the troops told them that they voluntarily joined to obtain Russian citizenship.

Ukrainian prisoners of war have previously alleged mistreatment from Russian forces, including claiming to have been given electric shocks and made to give false confessions.

There have previously been reports of Russia forcing Ukrainian conscripts into battle.

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The Russian announcement of the new military formation came two days after Ukraine said it had created a whole battalion from Russians who wanted to fight their own country.

"We can confirm the information about the creation of the Siberian Battalion, which operates in the ranks of the International Legion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) said, according to the Kyiv Post.

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