US levies war crime charges against four Russians accused of torture

Filings are first time Justice Department has charged anyone under US war crimes statute

US Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks to reporters. AP
Powered by automated translation

The US on Wednesday filed war crimes charges against four members of the Russian military who are accused of abducting and torturing an American citizen living in Ukraine at the time of Moscow's invasion.

The four Russians are accused of kidnapping the American, who was living in the Ukrainian village of Mylove. He was tortured, interrogated, threatened with sexual assault and execution, participated in forced labour and faced mock executions while he was detained at a Russian compound for 10 days, the Justice Department said.

The victim was a civilian non-combatant at the time of his abduction.

"Again and again he believed he was going to die," Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a news conference.

The charges are the first time the Justice Department has charged anyone under the US war crimes statutes.

Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, Dmitry Budnik, Valerii and Nazar (last names unknown) face charges including torture, inhuman treatment and unlawful confinement of a US citizen in Ukraine.

Two of the Russians charged in the indictment were commanding officers, while the other two were lower-ranking military personnel.

None of the four Russians reside in the US and it is unclear if they will ever face a judge as Washington and Moscow do not share an extradition treaty.

However, Mr Garland said the charges are an "important step towards accountability".

"We will not forget the atrocities in Ukraine. And we will never stop working to bring those responsible to justice," Mr Garland said.

Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas said during the briefing that the evidence uncovered during the US investigation "speaks to the brutality, criminality, and depravity of Russia’s invasion".

Wednesday's charges come as President Joe Biden's administration attempts to continue to show support for Kyiv despite struggling to elicit support from Congress to deliver more military assistance to Ukraine.

Updated: December 06, 2023, 4:13 PM