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Ukraine launches probe into killings of Ukrainian troops wounded or captured in Avdiivka

A Ukrainian soldier patrols the front line near the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region. As Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city at the weekend due to ammunition shortages, the region's top prosecutor launched a war crimes-murder investigation into allegations Russian forces executed six seriously wounded Ukrainian troops as they were waiting to be medevacked and shot dead two POWs. File photo by Stanislav Kozliuk/EPA-EFE
A Ukrainian soldier patrols the front line near the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region. As Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city at the weekend due to ammunition shortages, the region's top prosecutor launched a war crimes-murder investigation into allegations Russian forces executed six seriously wounded Ukrainian troops as they were waiting to be medevacked and shot dead two POWs. File photo by Stanislav Kozliuk/EPA-EFE

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Ukraine authorities in the eastern Donetsk region of the country launched a war crimes-murder investigation after six seriously wounded Ukrainian troops allegedly were executed by Russian forces as they were waiting to be medevacked from Avdiivka.

The alleged murders by a Russian soldier of two Ukrainian POWs in the nearby village of Vesele, 12 miles northeast of the frontline city of Bakhmut, is the subject of a second separate investigation, the Donetsk regional prosecutor's office said Sunday in a social media post.

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The probe of the executions of prisoners in Avdiivka, which fell to Russian forces at the weekend, is based on a post on the chat platform, Telegram, while the principal evidence for Sunday's killings in Vesele is from drone footage in which the shootings were incidentally caught on camera, according to the prosecutor's office.

"The recording from the drone camera shows how today during the assault on our positions, a representative of the Russian Armed Forces shot at close range, first at one captured soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and then at the second," authorities said.

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"Not wanting to leave the prisoners alive, the occupier deliberately kills them with automatic weapons."

Armed Forces of Ukraine said the incident demonstrated the total lack of regard for International humanitarian law by Russia's armed forces.

"This morning, in the zone of responsibility of the Khortytsya air defense complex, the Russians once again showed their attitude to IHL by shooting two Ukrainian prisoners of war," Ukraine Ground Forces wrote on social media.

Russia responded by claiming that it had in fact evacuated to safety 20 wounded Ukrainian troops who had been "left to die" by their units amid chaos among Ukrainian forces as they were routed in a Russian offensive.

"The Ukrainian side fled chaotically from Avdeyevka even before the withdrawal was announced. They left their wounded to die. Our guys are evacuating and saving them. At the moment, more than two dozen wounded have been taken out," the official Tass news agency quoted Donetsk People's Republic operational services as saying.

Saturday's Battlegroup Center offensive "completely liberated Avdiivka," advancing Russia's frontline by 5 1/2 miles, said Russia's Defense Ministry, which also claimed Ukrainian forces' losses in battles in Avdiivka in the past 24 hours were in excess of 1,500 military personnel.

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With the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, the fall of Avdiivka four months after Russia launched it offensive, moves the front line further southwards and Russia's forces within a stone's throw of the strategically key city of Bakhmut.

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