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Finnish court orders Russian neo-Nazi fighter into custody, awaiting potential war crimes charges

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 19, 2023 9:42 AM 2 min read
Members of the neo-Nazi paramilitary unit Rusich walk by the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow, Russia. (STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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A court in Helsinki ordered the pre-trial detention of Yan Petrovsky, a Russian neo-Nazi mercenary who has fought against Ukrainian troops, as he awaits potential formal charges on war crimes he allegedly committed in Ukraine, the Finnish media outlet Helsingin Sanomat reported on Dec. 18.

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 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 three days later, a Finnish court ordered him back into custody. Over the following days, Finnish authorities publicly speculated about the possibility of trying Petrovsky in Finland for his alleged crimes in Ukraine.

Helsingin Sanomat said that charges would be filed by the end of May 2024 and likely relate to the treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers and POWs.

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.”

If official 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.

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