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US charges 4 Russian soldiers with war crimes against American in Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek December 6, 2023 7:11 PM 2 min read
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks alongside U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (L) and FBI Director Christopher Wray (R) during a press conference at the U.S. Department of Justice on December 6, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
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The U.S. Justice Department has charged four Russian soldiers over the unlawful detainment and torture of a U.S. citizen residing in Ukraine in a historic case, the department's Office of Public Affairs announced on Dec. 6.

Kyiv and the international community have accused Russia and its troops of numerous atrocities and war crimes in Ukraine. This is the first time the U.S. has charged Russian combatants for war crimes against a U.S. citizen.

"As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

"That is why 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 listed suspects are Suren Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, officers in the Russian military or Russian proxy forces in Donetsk Oblast, and two low-ranking soldiers named Valerii and Nazar, whose last names are unknown.

According to the charges, the Russian soldiers kidnapped the U.S. national from his home in Mylove, Kherson Oblast, in April last year. The settlement had been occupied by Russia since March 2022 but was liberated in Ukraine's fall counteroffensive.

The suspects allegedly held the victim for at least 10 days, stripping him naked, beating him, and performing a mock execution, the Justice Department said.

The U.S. national was also subjected to at least two interrogation sessions, during which he was tortured by the four soldiers and other unnamed persons.

The defendants were charged with three war crimes – unlawful confinement, torture, and inhuman treatment – and one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes.

Although facing life in prison if convicted, Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and multiple reports accused Moscow of carrying out war crimes intentionally.

According to an investigation into deliberate killings of children in Ukraine by the Kyiv Independent's war crimes unit, published in September, Mkrtchyan was a lieutenant colonel in a unit based in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast. Witness accounts provided to the Kyiv Independent point at Mkrtchyan, who at the time oversaw an area in Kherson Oblast, as the one responsible for the murder of 15-year-old Mykhailo Ustianivsky in April 2022.

Mkrtchyan was allegedly detained by Russian occupying forces for sexual violence.

According to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin, Ukraine has collected evidence of 109,000 Russian war crimes as of Nov. 18.

Ukrainian women fight escalated gender-based violence amid war
Editor’s Note: This story was sponsored by HIAS and VOICE non-profit organizations that together work on solving the issue of violence against women and girls in Ukraine, under the project “Partnering for Change: A Project Partnership Centering Women and Girls in the Ukraine Regional Response.” Wome…

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