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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 343
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian-Backed Separatist Commander Givi Tortures Ukrainian POWs
6 years
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Kiev Holds Rally For Ukrainian POW Facing Murder Charges In Moscow

An extremely graphic video was uploaded January 22 to YouTube showing Givi, commander of the Somalia Battalion of the Russian-backed separatist forces of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republics" (DNR).

Givi, a commander who has been popularized in hundreds of Russian state TV broadcasts and "Novorossiya" YouTube channels, is shown pistol-whipping, beating, threatening and screaming at Ukrainian POWs evidently arrested after the fall of the Donetsk Airport to separatists on January 21.

The first scenes in the video have been geolocated here on Google Maps to the separatists' stronghold in the north of Donetsk right across from the airport, a location where many war propaganda videos have been made.

Givi grabs the POWs from a truck and throws them to the ground by a yellow house with a brick wall in the apartment complex taken over by the separatists last fall.


The same house on Google Street View:


Open News Room's Donie O'Sullivan  noted that bald man seen in the line-up of POWs and clearly at 4.12 in the video is Col. Oleg Mitsaka, captured during the battle for Donetsk airport, according to news reports.

Throughout the video, we can see Russian state and pro-Kremlin TV crews filming the interrogation of the POWs, which as Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE's Representative for Media Freedom has declared an "unethical and inadmissible" journalistic practice.

Yevgeny Poddubny, special correspondent for Rossiya-24 TV, is visible in the video with a "Press" sign on his chest and helmet; we have seen him many times before in footage from the Donetsk Airport.


A LifeNews microphone is also seen thrust into the POWs' faces:


At the separatists' stronghold near the airport, Givi asks the POWs if they recognize him and they say "yes."

All of the POWs say they were drafted, not volunteers, and come from Zhitimir, Vinnitsa, Chernihiv and other regions. At 1:48, Givi asks for a knife, cuts off the chevron of the Ukrainian soldier and then forces him to eat it. Then he does the same to several other prisoners, finally unsheathing and brandishing a large saber.

Givi tells the men, shaking from cold, that they are lucky to be alive. By 3:04, we can see the men bruised and bloody, and clearly they have been beaten. The POWs are repeatedly asked why they came to "the separatists' land" and shelled on the city.


Mitsaka, described as "the main Cyborg," as the soldiers defending the airport were known, has the rank of colonel. Givi points to the city of Donetsk and says to Mitsaka "You have done this," regarding the shelling of the city and grabbing his head forcefully says that a 6-week old baby was left an orphan after shelling of the apartment building in the background, and demands that Mitsaka look him in the eyes.


Givi threatens to organize reprisals in Zhitomir in retaliation for what he believes has been perpetrated by the Ukrainian forces in Donetsk.

The POWs are blindfolded and pushed into a van. Mitsaka is asked how much his salary is per month, and he says "10,000 hyrvnias" (US $640).

Viktor Babenko, a Ukrainian POW said they were given orders to pick up wounded but when they came to the airport they found they had to be in an offensive against the airport.

Givi notes that from Babenko's crew, 3 were killed and 2 were taken prisoner and 5 surrendered. Asked if he understood what Ukrainian forces had done in Donetsk, Babenko answered in Ukrainian that the knew, and Givi said he would "let him stay alive for that" and trade him for a separatist POW. Babenko was then forced to tell his story to LifeNews, and said that he thought he was just picking up wounded men but found himself in battle.

Babenko is then forced to make an appeal to other Ukrainians not to serve in the army and refuse to join up.

At 8:40, the separatists unload at least three dead soldiers. At 8:58 we can glimpse the lettering on the armored jeep, and it appears to be "PR" in Russian, which would match with "LDPR," or the ill-named ultranationalist "Liberal Democratic Party of Russia" headed by the notorious Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has repeatedly bragged about giving jeeps to the Russian-backed separatist army.


Later, a total of six dead soldiers are shown, evidently killed in battle at the airport, at least one with the top of his head blown off.

At 9:52, a soldier says 81st Brigade, 90th battalion a newly-formed unit. A separatist demands to know if he is from Right Sector, and he denies it, and says their brigade was just formed December 22 and they were sent to Konstantinovka.

The POWs are then taken into the city of Donetsk and paraded around and angry townspeople shout at them about how they have suffered from shelling, and have been forced to live in their basements.

At 14:02, a woman appears with a broom and beats a POW. She and others continue to beat the prisoners and are even held back by the separatists. Several throw eggs at the prisoners.


There is something of a contrived feeling to these women attackers, as quite a few other women on the street are just standing silently with worried expressions on their faces. So there is a possibility they were incited or even "stage-managed" by Russian TV.

At the end, Col. Mitsaka is once again slapped around by a militant, and forced to speak to Russia's Channel 1. But he refuses to speak, and finally says he has nothing to say.


-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick and Pierre Vaux