A video that purportedly shows a Russian soldier castrating a Ukrainian prisoner of war circulated on Twitter and Telegram this week, sparking international outrage. The video footage was described as “genuine” by investigative news outlet Bellingcat.
What The Footage Shows (Reader Warning: the Description Below Is Graphic)
In the clip, which this outlet will not publish due to its graphic nature and because we can’t independently confirm it, a man wearing a Ukrainian uniform is seen with his hands tied behind his back. The man is also pinned to the ground, and a Russian soldier can be seen using bolt cutters to cut off his testicles.
The Russian soldier is seen wearing a bracelet and a black hat and was described as having an “Asian skin tone” by some analysts online. In the video footage, a vehicle with a “Z” emblazoned on it is also seen, indicating the presence of the Russian military.
Additional footage also shows the soldier placing the Ukrainian man’s severed genitals on his face before shooting him in the head and then dragging his body into a grave.
Bellingcat’s head of research and training, Aric Toler, noted that the same Russian soldier was seen in a television clip wearing the same wristband and black hat. The fact that there was no evidence the footage had been manipulated indicates that it is real.
The soldier’s identity has not been confirmed, but some Ukraine war analysts noted that the individual could have been a Wagner Group soldier – a mercenary who works for the private Russian paramilitary organization that has been drafted to assist with Russia’s so-called “special military operation.”
Others, however, have claimed that the soldier is a member of the Chechen special forces, Akhmat, and have shared photographs, videos, and private details of what they believe is the same man.
Again, to be clear, 19FortyFive has not independently verified the authenticity of the video footage.
Martha Struthers, the head of Amnesty International’s central Asian and European teams, said in a statement that the video was one of several examples of Russia’s “complete disregard for human life.”
“All those suspected of criminal responsibility must be investigated and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to the death penalty,” Struthers added.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Mikhailo Podolyak also expressed outrage on Twitter, claiming that Russians were pleased to see the footage.
“Russian propagandists were delighted to show how a group of [Russian] inhumans destroyed a captive,” Podolyak wrote.
“All the world needs to understand: Russia is a country of cannibals who enjoy torture and murder,” he continued.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.