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HomeGeneralRussian-Affiliated Soldiers Charged With War Crimes for Torturing a U.S. Citizen in...

Russian-Affiliated Soldiers Charged With War Crimes for Torturing a U.S. Citizen in Ukraine

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A picture of FBI Director Christopher Wray at the Wednesday, Dec. 6 conference
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The United States Department of Justice announced the indictment of four Russia-affiliated soldiers for war crimes on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. According to the department, the charges are the first ever brought under a U.S. war crimes law.

Consequently, they charged the defendants with three war crimes: unlawful confinement, torture, and inhuman treatment. Also, the charges include one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes. None of the men are in custody.

However, if found guilty, the defendants each face a maximum life sentence in prison. According to reports, the soldiers unlawfully confined a U.S. national in Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The Department of Justice charged each man, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, 45, Dmitry Budnik, and two men with unknown last names, Valerii and Nazar, in connection with their unlawful detainment of a U.S. national.

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According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly interrogated, severely beat, and tortured the victim. In addition, they reportedly threatened to kill him and conducted a mock execution.

While speaking about the case, 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.”

Also, he said they are using the 1996 U.S. war crimes statute “for heinous crimes against an American citizen.” “We allege that, as they interrogated him, they tortured him,” Garland said.

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He also added that the soldiers beat the U.S. national with a gun and punched his chest and stomach. “They threatened to shoot him. They stripped off his clothes and took pictures,” Garland continued.

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“One of their conspirators threatened to assault him sexually.” While recounting the inhumane treatment the citizen faced, Garland promised to see the case through. “The Justice Department will work to pursue accountability and justice for Russia’s war of aggression,” Garland said.

In addition, F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray said the charges reflect international cooperation in investigating crimes. He also added that it demonstrates that the government would hold war criminals accountable. Furthermore, Wray said war crimes investigations are among the most complex his agency investigates.

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While speaking about the unnamed citizen’s ordeal to the press, Wray said he was “Caught in the crossfire of a war he had no part in.” In addition, Wray said the defendants tormented the U.S. citizen for days.

Ironically, the announcement came as Congress was at a deadlock over providing additional emergency funding for Ukraine. According to allegations in the indictment, Mkrtchyan and Budnik were commanding officers of the Russian Armed Forces military units.

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However, Valerii and Nazar were lower-ranking military personnel. The defendants were fighting on behalf of Russia in Ukraine when they allegedly committed war crimes. In April 2022, Mkrtchyan and soldiers under his command reportedly abducted the U.S. national from his home in Mylove.

Afterward, they unlawfully confined him for at least ten days. During the abduction, Mkrtchyan, Valerii, Nazar, and others allegedly threw the victim face down to the ground while he was naked.

In addition, they tied his hands behind his back, pointed a gun at his head, and severely beat him. The indictment also suggested that they beat him with the stocks of their weapons. The defendants allegedly put a gun to the back of the victim’s head. According to the indictment, “they moved the gun slightly and shot a bullet just past the victim’s head.”

Consequently, Jessica Aber, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said the defendants’ actions breach U.S. laws. In addition, she said they breached the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

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