Israel condemns ‘horrifying’ acts after video of beheading of Ukraine soldier

Without explicitly mentioning Russia, Foreign Ministry says those ‘responsible for such atrocities must be prosecuted’

Illustrative: Ukrainian soldiers rest in a dugout on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, April 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)
Illustrative: Ukrainian soldiers rest in a dugout on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, April 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)

Israel condemned “inhumane” and “horrifying” acts after the release of a video that purportedly shows the beheading of a Ukrainian soldier — the latest accusation of atrocities by Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“It is impossible to remain indifferent to the horrifying videos published from the town of Bakhmut. Such acts are inhumane,” The Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

“Those who are responsible for such atrocities must be prosecuted,” it added without specifically mentioning Russia.

The video circulating online appears to show a man in green fatigues wearing a yellow armband, typically donned by Ukrainian fighters. His screams are heard before another man in camouflage uses a knife to decapitate him.

A third man holds up a flak jacket apparently belonging to the man being beheaded. All three men speak in Russian.

While Israel has sought to avoid antagonizing Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria where Israel operates to target Iranian proxies, it has offered strong criticism of Moscow on several occasions.

However, Israel has until now resisted providing weapons to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February 2022, contributing to the perception that the Jewish state has staked out a neutral position on the war.

As the war progresses, Israel has increasingly insisted that it is in fact on Ukraine’s side, providing over $22.5 million in humanitarian aid and setting up a field hospital to treat wounded Ukrainians in the early days of the war. In February, it voted alongside 140 other countries for a UN General Assembly resolution drafted by Kyiv calling for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

A Ukrainian soldier in a dugout on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, April 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)

A recent report said there has been a shift in Israel’s stance, with a decision made for the first time to authorize the sale of defensive military equipment to Kyiv.

According to the Walla news site, which cited three Israeli and Ukrainian officials, Jerusalem approved export licenses for two Israeli companies to sell electronic warfare systems with a range of some 40 kilometers (25 miles) that could be used to defend against drone attacks.

Russia has sent thousands of Iranian-made suicide drones to attack targets across Ukraine, particularly power stations and other crucial infrastructure.

Leaked intelligence documents last week indicated that the US believes Israel can be pressured or persuaded into changing its stance on Ukraine and providing Kyiv with “lethal aid.”

Ukraine on Wednesday launched an investigation into the gruesome video, which spread quickly online and drew outrage from officials in Kyiv, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as international organizations. The Kremlin called the footage “horrible” but said it needed to be verified.

The Associated Press was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the video or the circumstances of where and when it was shot. The AP is not distributing the video or using frame grabs due to its extremely graphic nature.

Since Russia’s forces invaded, they have committed widespread abuses and alleged war crimes, according to the United Nations, rights groups and reporting by The Associated Press. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of targeting apartment buildings and other civilian structures and equipment in its strikes, and images of hundreds of dead civilians in the streets and in mass graves in Bucha after Russian forces withdrew from the city have horrified the world.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.

The Kremlin denies it has committed war crimes or that it has targeted civilians.

Ukrainian troops have also been accused of abuses, and last year Kyiv said it would investigate video circulating online that Moscow alleged showed Ukrainian forces killing Russian troops who may have been trying to surrender.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023 (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

Zelenksy said the violence in the latest video would not be forgotten, and that Russian forces would be held responsible.

“Everyone must react, every leader. Do not expect that it will be forgotten, that time will pass,” he said in a video.

In it, he used strong language to describe Russian soldiers, calling them “beasts.”

Later Wednesday, at a roundtable of IMF and World Bank meetings, Zelensky called in a video for a moment of silence for the Ukrainian soldier killed in the apparent beheading.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the video was “horrible” but must be verified.

“In the world of fakes we live in, the authenticity of the footage must be checked,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

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