A Virginia federal court has charged four Russian soldiers for committing war crimes against an American who was residing in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. The charges include unlawful confinement, conspiracy to commit war crimes, inhuman treatment, and torture.
The four Russian soldiers have been identified as Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, Dmitry Budnik, V Alerii Lnu and Nazar Lnu. Bringing these charges to light is “an important step towards accountability for the illegal war in Ukraine,” Attorney General Merrick Garland stated during a press conference.
“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice. That is why the Justice Department has filed the first-ever charges under the US war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has never before brought charges under this war crimes statute, the bureau has investigated and prosecuted those responsible for war crimes on multiple occasions.
“The human toll of the conflict in Ukraine weighs heavily on the hearts of the FBI, and we’re resolved to hold war criminals accountable no matter where they are or how long it takes.”
The indictment states that in April 2022, the Russian soldiers abducted the American from his home in the village of Mylove, in Kherson province, before beating and torturing him in a Russian military compound. In the early days of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Russian forces invaded the area and captured Kherson and surrounding rural settlements. The American was held in the compound for ten days.
The four defendants and other unnamed co-defendants allegedly subjected the American to torture during two separate interrogation sessions. They bound him, stripped him naked, and severely beat him with their fists, feet and stocks of their guns before photographing him, according to the unsealed indictment. The American was not a combatant and, therefore, a protected civilian under the Geneva Convention of 1949.
Two of the accused were commanding officers in the Russian Armed Forces, while the other two were members of lower ranks. The American, who remains unnamed, was evacuated in the summer of 2022 from Ukraine with his wife.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the American informed DHS investigators about the torture he suffered after his evacuation. Federal agents “traveled internationally to interview the victim’s family,” according to Mayorkas.
“They identified and interviewed individuals who were present within the general vicinity of Mylove around the time the victim was held in captivity, who confirmed the Russian forces’ occupation in the area. Based on the information they obtained, the HSI agents and their FBI partners were able to identify the four defendants whose indictments are announced today.”
Secretary Mayorkas also said that the gravity of these indictments sends a clear message to Russia.
“Thanks to the tireless and unprecedented work of federal law enforcement agents from Homeland Security Investigations and the Justice Department, four Russian soldiers, accused of unthinkable, unacceptable human rights violations against an American citizen, have been charged with war crimes and will be brought to justice. The indictments unsealed today send a clear message to Russia – our government will spare no effort and spare no resource to hold accountable those who violate the fundamental human rights of an American.”
During the captivity, Russian soldiers allegedly threatened to kill the American, at times pointing guns to his head and a knife to his throat. Russian soldiers also put the American through a “mock execution.” They “allegedly forced the victim to the ground, put a gun to the back of his head, then moved the gin slightly and shot a bullet just past the victim’s head.”
The American faced sexual assault threats in addition to other forms of intimidation. When his answers fell short of the Russian soldiers’ expectations, some of them threatened him “with death and asked for his last words.” He was also ordered to dig trenches for the Russian military as part of forced labor.
Speaking about the victim’s ordeal, Garland said, “Again and again, he believed he was going to die.”
“In the midst of war, Ukrainian prosecutors and investigators have risked their lives to bring justice to the Ukrainian people. When the time comes, the United States and our partners will be ready to bring accountability to Russia.”
Moumita Basuroychowdhury is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest. After earning an economics degree at Cornell University, she moved to NYC to pursue her MFA in creative writing. She enjoys reporting on science, business and culture news. You can reach her at email@example.com.