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Ukraine updates: Russia to probe alleged beheading video

Published April 13, 2023last updated April 13, 2023

Russia is investigating a video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian soldier to check its authenticity. Meanwhile, Berlin has approved Poland's delivery of German fighter jets to Ukraine. DW has the latest.

 A Wagner Group soldier guards an area outside apartment blocks in Bakhmut
A former Wagner mercenary has accused the group of being behind the shocking incidentImage: Valentin Sprinchak/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said on Thursday that it would open an investigation into a video that allegedly shows a Ukrainian prisoner of war being beheaded.

The footage, which lasts one minute and 40 seconds, appears to show a Russian soldier holding down a screaming Ukrainian soldier and decapitating him.

The victim is seen with a Ukrainian trident on his uniform.

"In order to assess the reliability of these materials and make an appropriate decision, they were sent to the investigating authorities to organize a probe," the Russian authorities said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had previously called the video "horrific" but said it must be verified.

"First of all, we live in a world of fakes and therefore we have to check the authenticity of the footage."

Former Wagner mercenary commander Andrey Medvedev, who fled to Norway months ago and is currently imprisoned in Sweden, reportedly identified the men in the footage as his former comrades.

"He has listened to and watched it carefully several times and he clearly recognizes his former colleagues there, fighters from the mercenary Wagner troop," said Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the Russian rights organization Gulagu.net.  

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin denied the accusations.

"This is complete nonsense. It does not correspond to reality," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his outrage on Wednesday after the video surfaced, saying "We won't forget anything, nor will we forgive murderers."

The video has sparked international condemnation with the UN Human Rights office in Ukraine saying it was "appalled."

"Regrettably this is not an isolated incident," a spokesperson added.

The European Union said that, if confirmed, the footage was "yet another brutal reminder about the inhumane nature of the Russian aggression". It pledged to hold any perpetrators accountable for war crimes.

France called the footage "barbaric" while Czech President Petr Pavel that if the video is authentic, "then Russian soldiers have placed themselves in line with [the so-called 'Islamic State' group]."

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Thursday, April 13:

Russia and Ukraine dispute status of Bakhmut frontline

Russian forces said on Thursday that they have blocked the routes used by Ukrainian forces to reach their positions in the highly contested frontline city of Bakhmut.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Konashenkov said that mercenaries from the Wagner Group were involved in "high-intensity fighting to drive the enemy from the central parts of Artemovsk city," using the Russian name for the city.

"Airborne troops are providing support to advancing assault troops, blocking the transfer of Ukrainian army reserves to the city and the possibility of retreat for enemy units," the Russian Defense Ministry also said.

However, Ukraine has disputed the claim. "This does not correspond to reality," Sergiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine's eastern forces told AFP, adding that Ukrainian forces were still able to "deliver provisions, ammunition, and medicines."

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group also contested the claim by the Russian Defense Ministry, saying it was "too early" to announce the encirclement of the city.

Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly traded claims and accusations over the city, which has been a focal point of Moscow's attempt to advance through eastern Ukraine.

Earlier, Ukraine's military said it controls "considerably" more than 20% of the city, refuting Prigozhin's claim that his Wagner mercenary group had seized more than 80% of Bakhmut.

Norway expels 15 Russian embassy officials

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has said that it is expelling 15 officials who had been working Russian embassy in Norway.

There are some 40 Russian diplomats currently accredited in Oslo. Another three were expelled in April last year.

"Their activities pose a threat to Norway," Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt told a news conference. "We have followed their activities over time. They have increased since the invasion of Ukraine."

Norway, a NATO member state, is also a member of the Arctic Council. Moscow currently holds the council's rotating chairmanship, but its due to hand this over to Oslo in May.

Huitfeldt said she could not say whether the expulsions would have any impact on the transition of the Arctic Council chair.

Poland requests German approval to send fighter jets

Poland has applied for formal approval from Berlin to deliver several MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, Germany's Defense Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

The Soviet-era planes formerly belonged to East Germany and were transferred to Poland in 2002.

Poland first announced it would deliver the fighter jets to Ukraine in March. 

Polish President Andrzej Duda recently confirmed that eight MiG-29s had already been delivered. Those jets did not require German permission to be exported because they were not former East German stock. 

Kyiv asks IMF, World Bank for more aid

Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary of the United States, called upon the international community to continue supporting Ukraine in meeting its financial needs during Russia's ongoing war.

She was speaking at a meeting with top representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to discuss assistance for Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who participated in the meeting via video link, appealed for a concrete mechanism to be established to use Moscow's frozen assets to compensate for the damage caused by Russia.

In March, the World Bank, along with the Ukrainian government and the European Commission, estimated that at least €411 billion ($451 billion) would be needed for Ukraine's reconstruction and recovery over the next 10 years.

Ukraine requires €14 billion for urgent reconstruction investments this year alone, with a financing gap of around €11 billion, according to the World Bank.

The institution also announced a plan to provide $200 million to help Ukraine repair its energy and heating infrastructure, while other partners will contribute an additional $300 million as the project expands.

The funds will be used for emergency repairs to Ukraine's transition transformers, mobile heat boilers, and other critical equipment, said the statement released by the World Bank. 

The country's energy infrastructure has incurred $11 billion in damage over the past year, making it one of the most critical areas in need of urgent support, according to Anna Bjerde, Managing Director of Operations at the World Bank. Power outages resulting from the damage to the infrastructure have contributed to food, heating, and water shortages. 

UK says war reality sinking in for Russians

The reality of war in Ukraine could pose a serious challenge for Russian authorities ahead of Victory Day parades next month, according to the British Ministry of Defense.

Victory Day celebrates the Soviet Union's World War II victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

"Leaders of several Russian regions bordering Ukraine, as well as occupied Crimea, have announced that their usually high-profile Victory Day military parades will be canceled," the ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Thursday.

However, Victory Day parades in cities further away from Ukraine are still set to go ahead.

"The different approaches highlight a sensitive communications challenge for the Kremlin," the ministry said.

The ministry said Russia's recent military shortcomings in Ukraine are at odds with the sentiment of Victory Day.

"Putin couches the ‘special military operation’ in the spirit of the Soviet experience in World War Two," the intelligence update read.

"The message risks sitting increasingly uneasily with the many Russians who have immediate insights into the mismanaged and failing campaign in Ukraine."

"Honoring the fallen of previous generations could easily blur into exposing the scope of the recent losses, which the Kremlin attempts to cover up."

How much longer can Putin fund the war in Ukraine?

US imposes sanctions on 120 targets

The United States imposed sanctions on more than 120 targets to put pressure on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

The sanctions target entities linked to state-held energy company Rosatom and firms based in partner nations like Turkey, as well as a Russian private military company, a China-based firm, and a Russian-owned bank in Hungary.

The Treasury and State departments, in concert with Britain, imposed the sanctions on entities and individuals in over 20 nations, including Russian financial facilitators and sanctions evaders around the world.

One of the main targets was Russian billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov, described by the Treasury as having "at his disposal a wide network of businesses in financial safe havens and family members through which to conduct financial transactions, enabling him to potentially circumvent sanctions."

Britain confirms $500 million in loan guarantees to Ukraine

British Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt announced that Britain is prepared to provide an additional $500 million (€455 million) in loan guarantees to Ukraine, bringing the total amount this year to $1 billion.

According to Hunt, the British loan guarantees were crucial in supporting a larger $15.6 billion (€14.2 billion) four-year package of assistance for Ukraine from the IMF.

"This funding will enhance Ukraine's economic resilience and strengthen its resistance against Russia," Hunt said in a statement.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine:

US officials are investigating after 50 documents, many of which were marked as secret and relate to the war in Ukraine, were leaked on social media.Here's what we know so far.

A Ukrainian video game studio is releasing a game created entirely during the Russian invasion. DW looked at how the development of the game was impacted by wartime experiences.

ab, zc, tg/nm  (dpa, AFP, Reuters)