On November 8, 2023, a Georgian-language Facebook user published a post, according to which soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces took an oath of allegiance to Russia and went to fight on the side of Russia. The post also mentions that the Ukrainian military is already moving in battalions to fight against Ukraine on the side of the Russians. Russian news agencies iz.ru, lenta.ru, news.ru, podolyaka.ru, and Russian-speaking Facebook users (1;2;3;4;5;6) have also disseminated similar information.
Information about the pledge of allegiance to Russia by the Ukrainian military is disseminated without context. The volunteer battalion named after Bohdan Khmelnytsky is actually formed from Ukrainian prisoners of war, and the Russian military command is planning to forcibly send these soldiers to the front, which, according to the Institute for the Study of War, is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
The information that the soldiers of the “Bohdan Khmelnytsky” battalion took an oath of loyalty to Russia and would soon go to the front appeared in Russian state propaganda media on November 7. However, the information published by some publications (iz.ru, lenta.ru, news.ru, podolyaka.ru) did not clearly state that this battalion was formed from Ukrainian prisoners of war. Accordingly, the information created an impression as if the Ukrainian servicemen voluntarily stopped fighting in the armed forces of Ukraine, moved to the side of Russia, and took an oath of allegiance to Russia.
The soldiers of the “Bohdan Khmelnytsky” battalion did take an oath of allegiance to Russia, although probably under duress, since the battalion consists of about 70 Ukrainian military prisoners who were “recruited” from various Russian penal colonies to serve in the “Bohdan Khmelnytsky” battalion. According to the information disseminated by “Ria Novosti,” the formation will function as part of the “Cascade” division of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. Also, Russian sources claim that the Russian command will treat the POWs the same as Russian soldiers and that they will receive the same pay and benefits as Russian soldiers.
According to the American Institute for the Study of War, this action violates the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, which prohibits the use of prisoners of war in hostilities by the capturing power: “No prisoner of war may at any time be sent to or detained in areas where he may be exposed to the fire of the combat zone.”
A report published by the same institute on October 27 states that Russian authorities allegedly forced Ukrainian prisoners of war to join the “volunteer” formation that had previously fought in Ukraine. The same report notes that the “Bohdan Khmelnytsky” volunteer battalion “recruited” about 70 Ukrainian prisoners of war from various penal colonies in Russia, began training them, and sent them to the battlefield, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, which states that no prisoner of war “shall be employed on labor which is of an unhealthy or dangerous nature.”
About the Source
Facebook account Giorgi Abashidze often amplifies various disinformation and conspiracy theories. The false information published by the user has been debunked by “Myth Detector” a number of times in the past (1, 2, 3).
Facebook user Валентина Кушнерева publishes anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian content on a regular basis. The posts published by the user have been flagged as false by foreign fact-checking organizations in the past.
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