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U.S. accuses Russian military group of war crimes in Ukraine

U.S. accuses Russian military group of war crimes in Ukraine Photo: U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland (Getty Images)

The United States today, on December 6, announced the filing of charges against four Russian military personnel for war crimes they committed during the invasion of Ukraine, according to the US Department of Justice.

The individuals named in the charges are Suren Seyranovich Mkrtchyan, Dmitry Budnik, and two Russians whose names are unknown in the United States, identified only as Valerii and Nazar.

They are accused of the unlawful detention of a US citizen during Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The victim was interrogated, brutally beaten, and tortured. The accused also threatened to kill the victim and staged a mock execution.

"The Justice Department has filed the first ever charges under the U.S. war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen. The Justice Department will work for as long as it takes to pursue accountability and justice for Russia’s war of aggression," said US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

Case details

According to the indictment presented in the charging document, Mkrtchyan and Budnik were commanders in the Russian Armed Forces and the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, while Valerii and Nazar were lower-ranking military personnel. The accused fought on the side of Russia against Ukraine.

In April 2022, Mkrtchyan and soldiers under his command allegedly kidnapped a US citizen from his home in the village of Myle in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine and unlawfully held him for at least 10 days.

During the abduction, Mkrtchyan, Valerii, Nazar, and others forced the victim to the ground, exposed his face, tied his hands behind his back, pointed a pistol at his head, and brutally beat him, including with the butt of their weapons. Mkrtchyan, Valerii, Nazar, and others then transported the victim to an improvised military base.

"These charges reflect that the defendants’ alleged actions are not only grave breaches of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, but also violations of U.S. law," said US Eastern District Attorney Jessica Aber.

The accused face maximum punishment

The charging document also asserts that Mkrtchyan and Budnik were in charge and participated in at least two interrogations during which the four accused and others tortured the victim.

During one of the interrogations, Mkrtchyan, Valerii, and Nazar undressed the victim and took photographs. Subsequently, the accused and others brutally beat the victim, pointed a weapon at the back of their head, and threatened to shoot them. Budnik threatened the victim with death and asked them to say their last words. Soon after, Nazar and others staged a mock execution.

It is alleged that they knocked the victim to the ground, aimed a gun at the back of their head, then slightly shifted the gun and fired right past the victim's head.

The accused are charged with three war crimes – unlawful detention, torture, and inhumane treatment – and one conspiracy to commit war crimes. If found guilty, each of the accused faces the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Russian war crimes in Ukraine

During the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian army regularly commits war crimes. Several Western countries have condemned the Kremlin for this and promised to hold all those involved in committing crimes accountable.

Recently, a United Nations investigative commission stated that it had found additional evidence of Russian military aggression and war crimes in Ukraine, including rape and the deportation of children to Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy revealed that over 110,000 violations of laws and customs of war by Russian invaders on Ukrainian territory have already been documented.