Last week, the Russian state agency Ria Novosti reported on its telegram that a Ukrainian unit of “volunteers” was created within the Russian army, which will be deployed to fight on the front against the Ukrainian army.
The agency released a video showing Ukrainians wearing Russian uniforms and holding weapons swearing an oath to Russia, CNN reported. It is not yet possible to say exactly how numerous the combat group is.
The “volunteer” unit is named after the 17th-century Ukrainian Cossack commander Bogdan Khmelnytsky. In October, it became part of the Russian combat group Kaskada.
Already in February, the Russian media reported that a unit of Ukrainian prisoners of war had begun to be formed in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia included 70 Ukrainian prisoners from several penal colonies in the unit.
In addition to Ukrainian prisoners of war, the Russian authorities continue to recruit men from ethnic minorities living in Russia, as well as prisoners, and in recent months have also recruited Ukrainians from the occupied territories. Like Ukraine, Russia needs to replenish the number of soldiers in the army, however, the main motivation is to avoid ethnic Russians from joining the army, so the military is reaching out to these specific groups, the AP reported.
The message said that prisoners who had “voluntarily” enlisted were going. According to the ISW, however, the captives may have been coerced. In such a case, Russia would commit a serious violation of international law.
Forcing prisoners of war to fight in the Russian army is a violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on Prisoners of War.
On the Ukrainian side, a group of Russian soldiers was formed already in the first months of the war, who decided to fight against the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Most of the units operate outside the structures of the regular Ukrainian army and only cooperate with it.
This is, for example, the Legion of Freedom of Russia, which drew attention to itself a few months ago when it made a foray across the border into Russia, where it occupied several villages and towns, then retreated back across the border.
At the end of October, the first unit composed of Russian soldiers was created, which operates within the Ukrainian army. It is the banner of Siberia. Its members are made up of volunteers from various ethnic minorities living in Russia, such as Buryats or Yakuts. “These are not prisoners of war,” stressed Ukrainian intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov.