Groups of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists have been committing executions in the rebel-held territories of Eastern Ukraine, according to a report from Amnesty International. Evidence emerged last September in the local media of volunteer militias beheading their victims.
According to Newsweek, armed volunteers who refer to themselves as the Aidar battalion “have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions”, Amnesty said.
The organization has also published a report detailing similar alleged atrocities committed by pro-Russian militants, highlighting the brutality of the conflict which has claimed over 3,000 lives.
Amnesty’s statement came before images of what appeared to be the severed heads of two civilians’ started circulating on social media, identified by Russian news channel NTV as the heads of rebel hostages.
Shortly after, Kiev-based news network Pravilnoe TV reported that it had spoken with one of the mothers of the victims who confirmed her son was a rebel, captured during fighting in Donetsk.
She said she had received her son’s head in a wooden box in the mail, blaming nationalist volunteers for her son’s death. Newsweek has not been able to verify the report independently.
There are over 30 pro-nationalist, volunteer battalions similar to Aidar, such as Ukraina, DND Metinvest and Kiev 1, all funded by private investors.
The Aidar battalion is publicly backed by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who also funds the Azov, Donbas, Dnepr 1, Dnepr 2 volunteer battalions, operating under orders from Kiev. Last spring Kolomoyskyi offered a bounty of $10,000 of his own money for each captured Russian “saboteur.”
Russia is calling for an international investigation into the discovery of the burial sites of those allegedly executed.
The top authority at Russia’s presidential human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, called on the authorities to do everything to “ensure an independent international probe” and “let international human rights activists and journalists” gain access to the site in Eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
The burial sites are near the Kommunar mine, 60 kilometers from Donetsk, and were discovered by self-defense forces.
Four bodies have been exhumed, including those of three women. Their hands were tied, at least one of the bodies was decapitated, self-defense fighters said.
The four bodies were found in September. Self-defense forces believe there might be other burials in the area.