The US Department of Justice has taken an unprecedented action by filing charges against four Russian soldiers for war crimes. These charges are related to alleged brutal assault, torture, and a simulated execution targeting an American resident in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that these are the initial charges filed under a relatively obscure 1996 federal law. This law grants the United States the authority to prosecute individuals involved in war crimes against Americans outside the country.
“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice,” Garland stated.
The individual, whose identity remains undisclosed, was abducted from his residence in the village of Mylove in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson in April 2022. A 9-page indictment, revealed in a Virginia federal court, outlines that the victim was held captive by Russian forces for a period of 10 days.
Throughout the harrowing experience, the American endured being undressed and photographed, subjected to blows with fists, kicks, and strikes with the bottom of a firearm.
Moreover, it is claimed that he was compelled to undergo interrogations and a staged execution. During this simulated event, a gun was reportedly placed at the back of his head, then shifted slightly before being discharged, with the bullet narrowly missing him, as outlined in the indictment.
The prisoner was frequently questioned for his final remarks and threatened with death. Additionally, one of his captives threatened to rape the American and kissed him on the cheek and caressed his ear in a suggestive way.
The individual from the United States, residing in Ukraine since 2021, was not actively participating in the conflict with Russia. The indictment highlighted that this person was considered a protected individual according to the Geneva Convention of 1949.
The accused individuals were recognized as high-ranking officers, namely Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, aged 45, and Dmitry Budnik. Additionally, two lower-ranking soldiers mentioned in the indictment were identified only by their first names, Valerii and Nazar.
Each of the four Russian individuals faced charges comprising one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes, as well as three separate counts of war crimes, specifically unlawful confinement of a protected person, torture, and inhuman treatment.
According to prosecutors, the accused individuals were affiliated with either the Russian army or military units associated with the Donetsk People’s Republic, a region in eastern Ukraine that was unlawfully annexed by Russia. The defendants are currently not detained and are not expected to appear in the United States to address the allegations.
Nevertheless, Garland characterized the indictment as a crucial move towards holding the Russian regime accountable for its illicit war in Ukraine. The indictment resulted from a year-long inquiry conducted by the Department of Justice’s war crimes team, established to investigate accounts of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. In August 2022, federal investigators journeyed to Europe to interview the victim, who had been evacuated from Ukraine following his release from being captured.