The news agency said Tuesday the soldiers swore allegiance to Russia when they joined the battalion, which entered service last month.
The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the report or videos released by the news agency, or whether the POWs were coerced into their actions. Both Ukrainian military and human rights officials as well as the Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the AP.
Experts say such actions would be an apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions relating to the treatment of POWs, which forbids them from being exposed to combat or from working in unhealthy or dangerous conditions — coerced or not.
“Russian authorities might claim they are recruiting them on a voluntary basis but it's hard to imagine a scenario where a prisoner of war's decision could be taken truly voluntarily, given the situation of coercive custody,” said Yulia Gorbunova, senior researcher on Ukraine at Human Rights Watch.
Nick Reynolds, research fellow for Land Warfare at the Royal United Services Institute in London, added that “the entire scenario is laced with the potential for coercion.”
A prisoner of war, he said, does not have “a huge amount of agency” and is in a…