Ukraine launched an investigation Wednesday into a video circulating on social media that purports to show a Ukrainian soldier’s beheading by Russian forces.
The gruesome video quickly sparked outrage upon its emergence online. The Kremlin called it “horrible” but added that it needed to be verified.
“In the world of fakes we live in the authenticity of the footage must be checked,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
Pro-Russian Telegram channels began circulating two separate videos this week that appear to document war crimes, one of which reportedly shows Russian troops cutting off a POW’s head while he’s still alive and begging the perpetrators to stop.
Off-camera voices—speaking in Russian—can be heard cheering on the executioner. The victim appears to be a man in green fatigues wearing a yellow armband, which is clothing typical of Ukrainian fighters.
Officials believe the video was recorded over the summer. It was spread by the Telegram channel of Vladislav Pozdyankov, the founder of a misogynistic hate group in Russia called the “Male State.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy said the violence in the video would not be forgotten, adding that Russian forces would be held responsible for such acts.
“Everyone must react, every leader. Do not expect that it will be forgotten, that time will pass,” Zelensky said in his own video posted on Telegram.
Reports of the Russian military committing war crimes and human atrocities in Ukraine have been going on nearly since Russia first invaded its sovereign neighbor in February 2022.
Last month, a coalition of justice ministers from 40 nations raised nearly $5 million to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigation of Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
The justice ministers’ fundraising occurred just days after the ICC announced it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes—specifically over his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children.
Russia is not a member of the ICC—nor is China or the U.S., for that matter. Unless someone were to turn in Putin—which would only be likely to happen if he were to visit an ICC member nation—he is unlikely to face trial by The Hague court.
Regarding the purported beheading video, posters on some pro-Kremlin Russian Telegram channels did not dispute its authenticity—though they did not confirm it either. Some sought to justify the video by saying that Russian troops have become hardened by combat.