Kyiv’s intelligence services have said the Kremlin’s claim that a Russian battalion comprised of Ukrainian POWs is now in action on the front lines are likely a misinformation operation that constitutes a war crime.

Russian state media on Thursday reported the “Bohdan Khmelnitsky battalion” had recently taken part in its first engagement against Ukrainian troops near Urozhaine, in the western Donetsk Oblast.

RIA Novosti published an interview with one of the soldiers – all purported to be Ukrainian POWs trained by Russia and sent to fight against Ukraine – who described “the first battle with the AFU.”

He said: “The first combat experience was accepted with dignity - we did not surrender, we did not turn on the rear and went straight ahead.”

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The soldier claimed to be a former Ukrainian border guard who had laid down his arms and surrendered to the Russian military. According to RIA Novosti, he met his father in captivity, whom he also persuaded to join the battalion and fight against Ukraine.

But Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) told Kyiv Post they had no evidence as yet that a battalion of Ukrainian POWs fighting against Russia had been in action on the front lines.

Spokesperson Andriy Yusov also said that even if they hadn’t been in action, Russia’s treatment of the Ukrainian POWs constituted a war crime.

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The Russian T-90 crew abandoned the tank, “a hi-tech weapon system based on a century-long experience” which Putin considers the Kremlin’s most advanced, and then fled the battlefield.

“As of now, this is yet another IPSO [information and psychological operation] of the occupiers and yet another public war crime of the Russian invaders,” he told Kyiv Post.

Reports of the Bohdan Khmelnitsky battalion first surfaced in Russian media earlier this year and 70 POWs had allegedly taken the oath of allegiance to Russia.

Its commander is reportedly a former Ukrainian tank commander, but Petro Andryushchenko, the adviser to the mayor of occupied Mariupol, claims that he is actually a Russian.

In its daily assessment on Thursday, the Institute for the Study of War said: “The use of Ukrainian POWs in the ‘Bogdan Khmelnitsky’ battalion is likely a violation of the Geneva Convention on POWs, which prohibits the use of POWs in military activities on the side of the power that has captured them and states that ‘no POW may at any time be sent to or detained in areas where he may be exposed to the fire of the combat zone’ and shall not ‘be employed on labor which is of an unhealthy or dangerous nature.’”

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