The devastation Russia’s war has wrought is not lost on Vitaliy.
“But we do our job because it’s our job and our duty,” he said, referring to the Hippocratic oath by which medical professionals abide. “And, of course, after they recover we can exchange them. So I tell myself that this can help to get Ukrainian soldiers back.”
Both Russia and Ukraine have taken prisoners of war since Putin’s invasion began 12 days ago. The Ukrainian side has captured at least 245 Russian troops, according to a website affiliated with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.
Kyiv has also posted an open call to the mothers of captured Russian soldiers to come retrieve them and take them home. According to the Ukraine Ministry of Defence Facebook page, Russian prisoners of war will be released to their mothers if the women personally travel to Kyiv to meet their sons in person.
“We, Ukrainian people, in contrast to Putin’s fascists, do not make war with mothers and their captured sons,” the ministry said.
But Ukraine has also published several ghastly videos of captured Russian troops that experts in international humanitarian law said might violate the Geneva Conventions.
In one video, a Russian soldier with tape wrapped around his head to cover his eyes is forced to call his parents to tell them he had been captured. “Nobody knew anything. They just ordered us to invade Ukraine,” he tells them.
Another video shows two heavily wounded Russian servicemen being interrogated in the bed of a moving pickup truck. Others show Russian troops making calls to family and confessions under duress.
“Prisoners of war and detained civilians must be treated with dignity and are absolutely protected against ill-treatment and exposure to public curiosity including images circulating publicly on social media,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a March 4 statement.
Anton Gerashchenko, an official with Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, told BuzzFeed News that the videos of Russian prisoners were justifiable because of the extraordinary circumstances.
“We have a people’s war going on. People are filming invaders who are killing Ukrainians and uploading them to social media. This is their right,” he said. “Let the Red Cross mind its own business, helping with humanitarian aid and evacuation corridors in encircled cities.”
Ukraine’s defense intelligence office said that Russian servicemen are being treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. “In particular, they are provided with food, clothing, and medical treatment, and are kept in normal conditions,” it said.
Most of the civilian casualties recorded since the start of Russia’s invasion, the UN human rights office said, “were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.”