Washington, DC [US], December 7 (ANI): War crimes charges against four Russia-affiliated military personnel were unsealed in the Eastern District of Virginia, CNN reported.
The charges include torture, inhuman treatment, and unlawful confinement of a US national in Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The charges included conspiracy to commit war crimes, unlawful confinement, torture, and inhumane treatment, following the takeover of the village of Mylove in the Kherson oblast of southern Ukraine in April last year.
The US filed these charges for the first time under its nearly 30-year-old war crimes statute, as reported by CNN.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice.”
“The Justice Department and the American people have a long memory,” he added. “We will not forget the atrocities in Ukraine, and we will never stop working to bring those responsible to justice.”
According to the nine-page indictment, the perpetrators include Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, described as “commanding officers with either the Russian Armed Forces or the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Two other soldiers named in the indictment were Valerie and Nazar, and they are identified only by their first names, according to CNN.
Garland and other US officials noted that the victim was a non-combatant living with his Ukrainian wife in Mylove when the four Russians kidnapped him from his home.
They allegedly then stripped him naked, tied his hands behind his back, put a gun to his head, and beat him before taking him to an improvised Russian military compound.
According to the indictment, the victim was then taken to an improvised jail, where he was subjected to multiple interrogations and “acts specifically intended to inflict severe and serious physical and mental pain and suffering.”
Additionally, the indictment alleged that “at least one of the Russian soldiers sexually assaulted the victim and that the Russians carried out a mock execution.”
“They moved the gun just before pulling the trigger, and the bullet went just past his head,” Garland said. “After the mock execution, the victim was beaten and interrogated again.”
Moreover, the victim was also forced to perform manual labour, such as digging trenches for Russian forces, until he was finally released after staying for a week in detention, according to CNN.
US officials said that the charges against the four Russian-affiliated soldiers were initiated by an investigation that started in August 2022, when investigators with the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security travelled to meet with the victim after he had been evacuated from Ukraine.
Additionally, CNN reported that US officials said that evidence was also collected in collaboration with Ukrainian officials.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas further emphasised that the investigators also met the members of the victim’s family and with multiple witnesses who confirmed that the Russian forces occupied the village of Mylove and the surrounding areas during the invasion of Ukraine.
“We cannot allow such horrific crimes to be ignored. To do so would only increase the risk they will be repeated,” Mayorkas said.
“As today’s announcement makes clear, when an American citizen’s human rights are violated, their government will spare no effort and spare no resources to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added.
However, the Russian Embassy in Washington has not yet responded to the US comment, according to CNN.
Additionally, it is unclear whether any of the four Russian-affiliated troops will ever face trial.
“That is a million-dollar question,” said Susana SaCouta, director of the War Crimes Research Office at American University’s Washington College of Law.
“What the war crimes statute allows is that if they find themselves in this country (US), they can be arrested pursuant to these charges,” SaCouta said. “But that’s, of course, an extraordinary if. I don’t foresee it happening.”
Still, she further said simply bringing the charges will likely send a message.
“This is a significant signal, again, of support for accountability for anyone, Russian nationals or otherwise, who commits war crimes in the context of conflict, particularly now in the context of Ukraine,” SaCouta said.
Moreover, the US official indicated that while the war crimes charges that were announced on Wednesday are the first, they likely will not be the last, CNN reported.
“You should expect more,” Garland told reporters. “I can’t get into too many details.” (ANI)