US charges four pro-Russian troops in Ukraine with war crimes
The charges against the four "Russia-affiliated military personnel" were the first to be brought under the US war crimes statute.
An honour guard stands next to the graves of Ukrainian soldiers on the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at Lychakiv cemetery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on December 6, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by YURIY DYACHYSHYN / AFP)
The United States charged four pro-Russian soldiers with war crimes on Wednesday for the abduction and torture of an American national in Ukraine.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the charges against the four “Russia-affiliated military personnel” were the first to be brought under the US war crimes statute.
“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice,” Garland said. “The Justice Department will work for as long as it takes to pursue accountability and justice for Russia’s war of aggression.”
According to the indictment, two of those charged — Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, 45, and Dmitry Budnik — were commanding officers of military units of the “Russian Armed Forces and/or the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.”
The two others charged were lower-ranking military personnel, identified by only their first names — Valerii and Nazar.
“Acting on behalf of the Russian Armed Forces and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, these four individuals allegedly violated the human rights of an American citizen,” said Katrina Berger, executive associate director of Homeland Security Investigations.
“According to the charges, they unlawfully detained and tortured the American citizen, and even went so far as to carry out a mock execution,” Berger said.
The Justice Department said Mkrtchyan and the other soldiers abducted the US national, who was not identified, in April 2022 from his home in the village of Mylove in the Kherson Oblast region in southern Ukraine and held him for at least 10 days.
“Mkrtchyan, Valerii, Nazar, and others allegedly threw the victim face down to the ground while he was naked, tied his hands behind his back, pointed a gun at his head, and severely beat him,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
At one point, Budnik threatened to kill the victim and asked for his last words, it said.
“Shortly thereafter, Nazar and others allegedly conducted a mock execution,” the statement added. “They allegedly forced the victim to the ground, put a gun to the back of his head, then moved the gun slightly and shot a bullet just past the victim’s head.”
The four are charged with three war crimes -– unlawful confinement, torture, and inhuman treatment – and one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes.
If taken into custody and convicted they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
© Agence France-Presse