Social media has been bombarded by disturbing videos, allegedly showing Ukrainian civilians – tied up, stripped and beaten by apparent vigilantes.
Reports have emerged that Ukrainians are suffering public punishments at the hands of alleged looters and saboteurs, including women and children.
Some of those being subjected to violence and public humiliation, are going viral. The Daily Mail, who reported on one of the images, according to the report, showed “how proud Ukrainians are fighting back against lawless criminals wanting to take advantage of the ongoing chaos”.
Other videos, however, show beatings being carried out against victims by members of the public and paramilitary groups while their victims are tied up.
Many of the clips were shared to Telegram and have garnered millions of views on Twitter, after being shared by Twitter user “Juan Sinmiedo.”
“Hundreds of civilians have been punished for diverse reasons in Ukraine by paramilitary groups and national guard. Strong footage. Tortures, abuses, humiliation, even of kids and girls,” he wrote.
“There is no a clear motive for (these) illegal abuses. They are labeled as marauders. That can include men who don’t want to fight, who are suspected of Russian sympathy, looters or people searching for food.”
He added, “We don’t know the actual reasons or for how long they are punished. It is clearly against any human rights conventions. There is no excuse for this.”
A man and a young boy were seen in one video, with their faces painted green and their pants around their ankles, while another video showed a couple tied to a tree, naked from the waist down – endure a beating from a woman who beat them with a stick.
Another video shows a woman being savagely beaten by a man with a stick, while her fellow active cries out in pain. A number of the victims have signs with “мародер” or “maroder” stuck to them, which translates to “looter” in Russia and Ukraine.
Marko Pavlyshyn, Emeritus Professor in Ukrainian Studies at Melbourne’s Monash University said, “nothing that I can see or hear in these videos supports the tweeter’s conjectures that the victims are being punished for Russian sympathies or for not wanting to fight or for speaking Russian”.
“In one of the videos, the person being beaten is accused of trying to set on fire some object that I can’t phonetically identify,” he said.
“Ukrainian news sites have picked up similar videos – without the worst violence – where the longer context suggests that it’s looting that people are being shamed and beaten for. Whether the clips are staged or not, the phenomenon exists, and is deplorable.”
Alex Glover, a freelance journalist who wrote for The Spectator, described the “ongoing battle against saboteurs and looters” in the capital city of Kyiv.
“Photos shoot across messaging groups,” he wrote.
“One shows a huddle of supposedly Russian agents caught in a metro station, along with an eviscerated teddy bear in which they were hiding rifle cartridges.
“The Ukrainians believe that saboteurs have been in most cities since January, marking out key infrastructure and military targets. Another photo shows an agent bound and gagged with masking tape. Blood streams from his head.”
Glover said the alleged looters “don’t fare much better”.
“A paunchy man has his wrists cable-tied around a utility pole, his belt used to strap his knees against it,” he wrote. “His underpants are round his ankles, his expression suggests that he has seen better days. Other looters are beaten and forced to strip naked in the snow.”
Moscow has denied attacking Ukrainian civilians.