A Ukrainian prisoner of war gunned down in cold blood after saying “glory to Ukraine” in front of his Russian captors has been hailed as a martyr.
In footage shared on social media, the lone man smokes a cigarette in a clearing in a forest while Russian guns are pointed at him.
In his last moments, he defiantly says “slava Ukraini” – the Ukrainian war motto – before being shot to death in repeated bursts of gunfire.
“You’re a b—. Die, b—,” say the assailants, in footage that Kyiv said amounted to further proof of Russian war crimes.
Andriy Yermak, Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said: “There will be retribution for every such war crime. No one can hide from her. We will find everyone.”
Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the International Criminal Court to launch an immediate investigation into the footage.
It is unclear where or for what unit the Ukrainian soldier had been fighting when he was captured.
The unnamed soldier’s apparent death has been shared widely by members of Ukraine’s armed forces as he is hailed as a hero by fellow troops.
The Telegraph could not immediately verify the footage.
Kyiv’s intelligence service has previously warned that Russians had been ordered to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war, a war crime according to the Geneva Convention.
It came as Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian mercenary boss, “sent a truckload of Champagne” made in Bakhmut to Ukrainian women to mark International Women’s Day in a social media stunt.
The Kremlin-linked tycoon shared footage of him helping load the sparking wine onto a lorry as fighters from his Wagner Group appeared on the cusp of victory in the eastern city.
Wagner captured the Bakhmut Champagne Winery and Siniat enterprise, in the eastern part of the city, in December.
His boastful claim came as Western military analysts said Ukrainian troops were likely conducting a “limited tactical withdrawal” from the besieged salt-mining city in the Donetsk region of the Donbas.
Moscow’s forces captured new positions in eastern, northern and southern parts of Bakhmut on Sunday, Russian military bloggers reported.
It was also claimed that Wagner forces had pushed Ukrainian troops back into the centre of Bakhmut, in a sign that Russian troops are close to encircling the city.
Vladislav, 27, a Ukrainian fighter wounded during recent fighting in Bakhmukt, told the Telegraph: “Now practically all the dominant heights are under their control, so it has become harder to move unnoticed and, in fact, we have already been surrounded from three sides.
“The situation is extremely difficult. Our guys are real lions, fighting for every centimetre of their land.
“At first, they [the Russians] did not save ammunition at all and literally bombarded us with iron, now it has become harder for them and they began to use them more sparingly because they are running low. But it has always been hell, both at the very beginning and now. Now it has become harder, the guys who hold the defence there are real titans.”
In recent days, Ukrainian troops defending the city against countless human waves of unprepared, poorly trained Russian troops have complained that they are running out of material to continue defending the city.
Mortarmen are rapidly running out of ammunition and having to use weapons dating back to the Second World War, while reconnaissance units no longer have enough drones to provide a critical overview of the battlefield because they are being lost at such a rate, the Kyiv Independent reported.
“A mortar could be attacking us for three hours, we wait for support, there’s no support,” said Serhiy, a Ukrainian soldier defending Bakhmut.
“They tell us hang on, you will get support in half an hour to an hour. We wait for seven hours, there’s no support,” a comrade, also named Serhiy, added.
They both complained that a lack of artillery support and infantry fighting vehicles, like the ones recently donated by the US and Germany, have made their task harder.
Footage analysed by military experts confirmed Ukrainian troops had destroyed a railway bridge over the Bakhmutka River to prevent Moscow’s forces from moving further into Bakhmut, after videos of the incident were shared widely on social media.
Ukraine could also be preparing to establish a new frontline on the western bank of the river, according to the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think-tank.
“Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a limited tactical withdrawal in Bakhmut, although it is still too early to assess Ukrainian intentions concerning a complete withdrawal from the city,” it said.
“The Ukrainian defence of Bakhmut remains strategically sound as it continues to consume Russian manpower and equipment as long as Ukrainian forces do not suffer excessive casualties,” the think-tank added.
Officials in Kyiv have denied that Ukrainian forces are pulling out and insisted that the troops will only retreat from Bakhmut if they have to.
But fighting over the eastern city appears to have reached its climax, with Ukraine slowly ceding ground to Russia in the area.
Brutal urban combat and trench warfare have inflicted heavy losses on both sides in what is Kyiv and Moscow’s single-longest battle since the Second World War.
Borys, a Ukrainian combat medic, told the Kyiv Independent that, of the 500-strong battalion he travelled to Bakhmut with in December, just 150 soldiers were left.
“When you go out to the position, it’s not even a 50/50 chance that you’ll come out of there (alive),” Serhiy added. “It’s more like 30/70.”
Prigozhin, whose Wagner forces are spearheading the Russian assault on Bakhmut, on Sunday said his troops lack ammunition, asking in a video to his followers whether the shortages were down to “ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal”.