Disinfo: Moscow scrupulously observes Geneva Conventions on treatment of POWs


Moscow has scrupulously observed the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners.


The claim is part of an ongoing pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign concerning Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine.

Rights watchdogs and news outlets have warned about Moscow’s potential mistreatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) throughout the course of the invasion. Some of these reports described the general conditions under which the Russian occupation forces kept the captured Ukrainians.

Others concern the violation of specific provisions of the Geneva Convention. For instance, Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Commissioner (p. 9) have both condemned the Russian practice of broadcasting images and interviews with Ukrainian POWs on state television. This amounts to a breach of Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention, which states that “prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

Experts have also highlighted Moscow’s refusal to even recognise some captured combatants as prisoners of war. In June 2022, the “supreme court” of the Russia-controlled Donetsk people’s republic sentenced two UK nationals to death for participating in the hostilities on Ukraine’s side. This directly violates the privilege of combatancy enshrined in the 1977 Additional Protocol, Art. 43(2):

Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict (other than medical personnel and chaplains covered by Article 33 of the Third Convention) are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities [emphasis added].

The same rule applies to hundreds of Ukrainian fighters captured in Mariupol in May 2022, whom Moscow plans to charge with “war crimes” via a Nuremberg-style kangaroo trial. This would likely constitute yet another breach of the Convention, which states that the troops can only be tried for specific war crimes, on an individual basis, and based on concrete evidence.


  • Reported in: Issue 304
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 04/08/2022
  • Article language(s) English
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Ukraine, Russia
  • Keywords: war crimes, War in Ukraine, Human rights
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