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The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that four Russian soldiers have been charged with war crimes for the alleged abduction and torture of an American citizen in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Merrick Garland,alejandro Mayorkas,christopher Wray

The charges, which include unlawful confinement, torture, inhuman treatment, and conspiracy to commit war crimes, were brought against two commanding officers, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, and two lower-ranking soldiers identified only as Valerii and Nazar. Attorney General Merrick Garland, during the announcement, stated, “These charges, against four Russia-affiliated military personnel, are the Justice Department’s first criminal charges under the US war crimes statute. They are also an important step toward accountability for the Russian regime’s illegal war in Ukraine.”

Prosecutors claim the soldiers abducted the unnamed American from Mylove village in Kherson Oblast, Ukraine, in April 2022, detaining and torturing him over ten days. The indictment details allegations of the victim being stripped, photographed, and subjected to beatings and mock executions. “The co-conspirators threw [the victim] face down to the ground while he was naked, tied his hands behind his back, pointed a gun at his head, and beat him with their feet, their fists, and the stocks of their guns,” the indictment reads. In one instance, Garland recounted, Budnik threatened the victim with death, leading to a mock execution where the victim was forced to the ground and a gun was fired just past his head.

The charges, filed under a 1996 federal law that criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions, are part of a broader effort by the US Justice Department to investigate war crimes in Ukraine. The department has established a War Crimes Accountability team and is collaborating with Ukrainian authorities to document Russian atrocities.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray, whose agents were involved in the year-long investigation, also spoke about the case. Investigators traveled to Europe in August 2022 to interview the victim, who had been evacuated following his ordeal. “The evidence gathered by our agents speaks to the brutality, criminality, and depravity” of the accused, Mayorkas said, signaling the potential for more charges in the future.


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