Federal prosecutors in the United States have brought charges against four Russian soldiers for alleged war crimes, accusing them of abducting and torturing an American citizen in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
The Justice Department revealed this information on Wednesday, identifying the soldiers as two commanding officers, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, along with two lower-ranking soldiers, Valerii and Nazar.
The charges, encompassing unlawful confinement, torture, inhuman treatment, and conspiracy to commit war crimes, mark the first criminal charges under the U.S. war crimes statute against Russia-affiliated military personnel. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that these charges represent a crucial step towards holding the Russian regime accountable for its illegal actions in Ukraine, emphasizing that the Justice Department’s efforts are ongoing.
The alleged war crimes detail the abduction of the unnamed victim in April 2022 from the village of Mylove in southern Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast region. Prosecutors claim that the victim was subjected to a 10-day period of illegal custody, during which Mkrtchyan and his soldiers conducted brutal beatings, interrogation sessions, and torturous acts, including a mock execution.
According to Garland, Budnik threatened the victim with death, leading to a distressing episode where the victim believed he was about to be killed. The charges underscore the severity of the actions, revealing that the victim, who had been living in Ukraine since 2021 and had not participated in the war, endured physical and psychological trauma at the hands of the Russian soldiers.
Acknowledging the collaborative efforts with Ukraine in the investigation, Garland commended the country’s law enforcement for their contributions. The Justice Department, actively involved in probing alleged war crimes committed by Russia, has established a War Crimes Accountability team and is aiding Ukrainian authorities in collecting evidence of Russian atrocities.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed their support for the charges, emphasizing the evidence gathered by federal investigators that sheds light on the brutality and criminality associated with Russia’s actions. Mayorkas revealed that U.S. investigators had traveled to Europe in August 2022 to interview the victim, who had been evacuated after the harrowing ordeal.