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Why Sharing Viral Videos Of Russian Prisoners Of War Could Create More Danger For Ukraine

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Twitter
Geneva Conventions and Russian Tank

It’s widely known that the Russian soldiers in Putin’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine may not have known exactly what they were walking into, as evidenced by the videos of captured soldiers criticizing their leader.

The videos have circulated online to demonstrate the depths of Putin's propaganda machine and further show just how merciless the Russian leader has been in sending his own people to their deaths while attempting to destroy the nation of Ukraine. 

However, no matter how well-intentioned people spreading these videos are, they are walking a dangerous line that could spell more trouble for Ukraine.

Filming and sharing videos of Russian prisoners of war may be a breach of the Geneva Conventions.

The Geneva Conventions, which were first formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, establish international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war.

Under these laws, prisoners of war are given specific protections.

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"Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity," the conventions state.

Public curiosity, in its vague language, doesn't neccessarily refer to videos shared online — likely because the conventions predate such a concept.

However, in the age of the internet, we must be cautious of where the Geneva Conventions sit within the new parameters of how we consume war.

According to journalist Andrew Stroehlein, filming and sharing videos of Russian POWs is a breach of the Laws of War outlined in the Geneva Conventions.

Despite the cruel and unprovoked nature of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is still important to remember that the soldiers of the Russian military are human beings entitled to certain rights and undeserving of cruelty.

Stroehlein says of the Laws of War, “Humiliating or making POWs a subject of public curiosity or ridicule is strictly prohibited by the laws of war.”

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Stroelhein also when on to tweet the following:

It's important to keep in mind the situation that these soldiers are in.

It is likely that some of the Russian POWs truly do believe the things that they say in their statements to the camera, it is critical to remember that these soldiers are prisoners of what they view as a hostile power.

Captured Russian soldiers could face reprisal at home.

The Russian government is well known for taking drastic and inhumane measures to protect its image and a captured Russian soldier, speaking out against the horrible regime that sent him there is not exactly likely to be welcomed home with open arms.

What’s even worse is that, even if these soldiers defected or fled from Russia, their families are still well within the reach of Putin’s regime.

These aren’t wealthy oligarchs who can just run to their Mediterranean villas or English mansions either, most of the conscripts and their families are common people that would have no recourse if their government decided to collect them and throw them into a camp.

If change is going to happen in Russia, it is going to need to come from within. The people of Russia must know that the outside world is not the enemy, their oppressive regime of invaders and killers is the enemy.

If you want to help the people of Ukraine, please donate to United Help Ukraine who are providing donations, food and medical supplies to displaced Ukrainians.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.

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