Poland’s Prime Minister has issued a chilling warning about Vladimir Putin, accusing the Russian President of building “an evil empire in the East” and claiming “Russian barbarians” represent a threat – not just to Ukraine but the entire free world. Mateusz Morawiecki took to social media a day after shocking images appeared to show Russian troops beheading a Ukrainian soldier.
And although he did not specifically refer to the footage, his tone suggested it was on his mind as he also took a swipe at “Old Europe” for failing to grasp the magnitude of the situation.
The 54-year-old, who has been his country’s leader since 2017, tweeted: “The Evil Empire has been reborn in the East. Russian barbarians threaten not only Ukraine.
“They threaten all of Europe and the whole free world.”
He added: “This is no mere incident, no coincidence, no maniac’s impulse.
“Putin has been building his Evil Empire for 23 years, in preparation for this conflict.
“New Europe understands this. It is time that Old Europe understood it too.”
The video spread quickly online and drew outrage from officials in Kyiv, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as international organisations. The Kremlin called the footage “horrible”, but insisted it needed to be verified.
Separately, a Russian defence official claimed that fighters from Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group have seized three districts of Bakhmut, the embattled city which for months has been the focus of Moscow’s grinding campaign in the east.
The video circulating online appears to show a man in green fatigues wearing a yellow armband, typically donned by Ukrainian fighters. His screams are heard before another man in camouflage uses a knife to decapitate him.
A third man holds up a flak jacket apparently belonging to the man being beheaded. All three men speak in Russian.
Since Russia‘s forces invaded on Febuary 24, 2022, they have committed multiple abuses and alleged war crimes, according to the United Nations.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of targeting apartment buildings and other civilian structures and equipment in its strikes, and images of hundreds of dead civilians in the streets and in mass graves in Bucha after Russian forces withdrew from the city have horrified the world.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes earlier this year, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.
The Kremlin denies it has committed war crimes or that it has targeted civilians.