Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Russian “beasts” on Wednesday after a video emerged showing the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner.
The emergence of the disturbing footage, which AFP could not independently confirm, has sparked outrage in Ukraine, where Kiev says Russia is “worse than IS” – a reference to the Islamic State group.
The EU has pledged to hold war criminals accountable, while the UN mission in Ukraine is “horrendous”.
The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine also pointed to another video circulating online, which it said “shows the dismembered bodies of Ukrainian policemen.”
It was not clear when or where the video was filmed. Ukrainian authorities said they are trying to identify the victim.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine a year ago, Moscow and Kiev have repeatedly accused each other of killing prisoners of war.
Several videos purporting to show POW killings have made the rounds on the Internet in the past year.
Following the release of a new video, Zelensky said in a social media address that he called the “world must see” the “killing of a Ukrainian captive”.
“There is one thing that no one in the world can ignore, how easily these beasts kill,” said the grim-faced Ukrainian leader.
“We will not forget anything and we will not forgive murderers,” he added.
– ‘Act now!’ –
Zelensky urged Ukraine to help Ukraine defeat Russia after months of infighting with Kiev’s forces on the battlefield.
“We must act now!” said the President of Ukraine.
The video, which lasts about one minute and 40 seconds, shows a masked man beheading another uniformed man on camera.
After the shouting stops, other voices can be heard cheering on the attacker in Russian.
After the man is decapitated, a voice is heard saying that the head must be sent “to the commander”.
The victim’s dress is also pictured, bearing a Ukrainian trident and a skull.
The SBU security service said it had opened an investigation into the video.
“The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is particularly alarmed by the horrific videos posted on social media,” he said in a statement.
“One of the videos shows the gruesome execution of what appears to be a Ukrainian prisoner of war, while the other shows the dismembered bodies of clearly visible Ukrainian soldiers.”
– ‘Inhumane violence’ –
If verified, the EU said the footage would be “another brutal reminder of the inhumanity of Russian aggression”.
EU spokeswoman Nabila Masraeli said: “The European Union reiterates its commitment to holding accountable the perpetrators and accomplices of Russian war crimes.” Brussels did not have information about the authenticity of the video, she added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “First of all, the authenticity of this horrific footage must be verified. We live in a world of lies.”
Senior Ukrainian officials have called for Russia to be removed from the UN Security Council, of which it is a permanent member.
“It is absurd to say that Russia, which is worse than ISIS, is leading the UNSC,” said Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Russia will hold a rotating presidency of the Security Council in April.
Zelenskiy’s political adviser, Mykhailo Podoliak, warned against “any attempt to seek a deal with the terrorists.”
Russia should be isolated from “the rest of the world,” he said.