DOJ files first-ever war crimes charges against Russia-affiliated military personnel for alleged torture of U.S. national in Ukraine
In an unprecedented move, the Justice Department has unsealed war crimes charges against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for their alleged torture and inhumane treatment of a U.S. national in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country last year.
This is the first time the department has filed charges under the U.S. war crimes statute.
The charges allege that Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, Dmitry Budnik, Valerii (last name unknown) and Nazar (last name unknown) detained, severely beat and tortured an American citizen they had allegedly abducted from his home in the village of Mylove after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaking at a news conference announcing the charges on Wednesday, stated, “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 U.S. war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen.”
The U.S. national detailed to U.S. officials last year how the Russian soldiers stripped him naked, beat him, and subjected him to brutal interrogation sessions while in captivity, including a staged mock execution with a gun placed near the back of his head.
The defendants are charged with three war crimes including unlawful confinement, torture, and inhumane treatment, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit war crimes. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, but it is unclear whether any of the defendants will ultimately see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.
Attorney General Garland emphasized that the Justice Department will work tirelessly to pursue accountability and justice for Russia’s war of aggression, and expects more charges to come under the war crimes statute.
FBI Director Christopher Wray also pledged to continue working with international law enforcement to hold criminals accountable for their actions, stating that the FBI will “work relentlessly to bring criminals to justice.”