A Finnish court charged Yan Petrovsky, a Russian neo-Nazi mercenary who has fought against Ukrainian troops, with illegally entering the country on more than one occasion, the Finnish media outlet YLE reported on Jan. 30.
Petrovsky is a co-leader of Rusich, a Russian neo-Nazi paramilitary unit that has fought against Ukraine. He is accused by Ukraine, and now Finland, of committing war crimes during the Russian invasion of Donbas that started in 2014.
Finnish authorities arrested Petrovsky in July as he tried to fly to France under the name Voislav Torden.
Ukraine requested his extradition so that he could stand trial for the alleged war crimes, but a Finnish court ruled on Dec. 8, 2023, that he could not be forced to go to Ukraine because it said conditions in Ukrainian prisons do not meet standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ukraine has said that Russian prisoners of war are treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Petrovsky was released on Dec. 8, but a Finnish court ordered him back into custody three days later. Over the following days, Finnish authorities publicly speculated about the possibility of trying Petrovsky in Finland for his alleged crimes in Ukraine.
He was charged on Jan. 30 with violating the laws for entering Finland, which can carry a sentence of 60 days in prison if found guilty.
Petrovsky's alleged border violations do not preclude him from also being charged for possible war crimes he committed in Ukraine. Such charges must be brought by the end of May at the latest, the court said. The Finnish police said in December 2023 that they had begun a preliminary investigation into the alleged war crimes but have yet to file any charges formally.
If official war crimes charges are announced and a trial proceeds, it would be a novel occurrence, as Petrovsky is not a Finnish citizen, and the alleged crimes did not happen in Finland.
The Rusich unit prides itself on atrocities, publishing photos and videos of the torture and murder of Ukrainian citizens.
Another co-leader of the Rusich unit, Alexei Milchakov, has posed with a swastika flag and called for “killing homeless people, puppies and children.”