The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it had unsealed war crime charges against four Russia-affiliated soldiers they say tortured and pretended to execute an American civilian in Ukraine.
The charges are the first to ever be filed under the U.S. war crimes statute, a decades-old law that allows the Justice Department to formally file charges against soldiers who commit atrocities against Americans abroad.
Two of the accused soldiers, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, were named in full, while two others, Valerii and Nazar, were listed using only their first names in an indictment obtained by The Daily Beast.
All four men are accused of detaining, severely beating, and torturing the unnamed American citizen they allegedly abducted from his home in the village Mylove in April 2022—less than two months after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The indictment alleges that the soldiers stripped the American naked, tied his hands behind his back, and beat him with their fists, feet, and the stocks of their rifles as they held a gun to the back of his head.
The men allowed the American to get dressed before beating him again and driving him to a Russian military compound, where he was held prisoner, interrogated, and beaten over the course of 10 days, according to the indictment.
In one interrogation, the indictment alleges soldiers stripped the American naked and took photos of him. It said the soldiers threatened to sexually assault the American, threatened to kill him, and asked him for his final words before they simulated a “mock execution,” firing a handgun next to the American’s head at point-blank range. Between interrogations, the indictment said the American was forced to dig trenches for the Russian military.
The indictment did not disclose what information the soldiers sought to obtain from the American, who the DOJ says was not involved in the war and was a protected person under the Geneva Convention of 1949.
“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, adding that the men committed “heinous crimes.”
The soldiers involved face four counts each, including unlawful confinement, conspiracy to commit war crimes, inhuman treatment, and torture.
Garland has pledged to be “relentless” in helping Ukraine hunt down war criminals associated with the invasion, but the status of the alleged tortures are unknown as Russia had lost approximately 300,000 troops as of August.
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