Ukraine’s military intelligence on Wednesday released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk, which is bearing the brunt of Russia’s renewed attack.
“The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine received an audio interception of the occupiers' conversation, which refers to the order to kill all prisoners of war of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are in their captivity in the area of Popasna (Luhansk Region),” Ukrainian military intelligence tweeted on Wednesday.
“This is a blatant war crime, a violation of international law, and another striking example that the Russian military are murderers, rapists, and looters,” it added.
The alleged intercepted audio recording released Wednesday appears to feature the voices of unknown Russian soldiers saying: “What can I tell you, damn it, [expletive], [unintelligible] – you keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever. Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.”
CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording and has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has previously released a purported communications intercept of a Russian ground unit commander, who said Russian aircraft were planning to "level everything to the ground" around Azovstal, the steel factory that is a redoubt of Ukrainian defenders in the besieged port city of Mariupol.
On Thursday, in a meeting with his defense minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is no need to storm the plant, but it should be surrounded, and those inside should be offered a chance to surrender.
"Block off this industrial area so a fly cannot get through,” he said.
The SBU also previously released audio from purported intercepted radio traffic revealing Russian soldiers discussing killing and raping civilians, bolstering allegations of war crimes by Russian troops.
Germany’s foreign intelligence service has also intercepted alleged radio communications where Russian soldiers talked about shooting soldiers and civilians in Ukraine. Military observers have also noted a tendency of Russian troops to use unsecured communications in Ukraine.
Speaking from an undisclosed location to CNN on Wednesday, Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said 80% of his region's territory is under Russian control, and if Ukraine doesn’t resist, “Russia is certainly not going to stop here and will push further on.”
“Certainly they [Russians] are spreading out a lot," he said. "We’ve established our defenses in a lot of towns. They’re trying to encircle our troops, a lot of nasty business is going on there…but they haven’t had any successes so far. We are doing well to destroy their equipment."
Haidai went on to say that “We have a very serious situation here. The whole of Luhansk territory is being shelled. There is no safe town… We understand that the Russian government is going to push ahead and going to destroy everything in its path. So what we are doing is trying to evacuate everyone as much as possible.”