US Hits 4 Russian Soldiers With War Crimes Charges

DOJ says soldiers kidnapped, tortured an American in Ukraine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 6, 2023 9:50 AM CST
US Hits 4 Russian Soldiers With War Crimes Charges
Attorney General Merrick Garland looks on as he meets with US Attorney Damian Williams (not pictured) and other federal, state, and local law enforcement leaders in New York on Nov. 27.   (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)

The Department of Justice on Wednesday said it has filed war crimes charges against four members of the Russian military accused of abducting and torturing an American during the invasion of Ukraine in a case that's the first of its kind. The four Russians are accused of kidnapping the American from his home in a Ukrainian village in 2022, reports the AP. The American was beaten and interrogated while being held for 10 days at a Russian military compound, before eventually being evacuated with his wife, who's Ukrainian, US authorities said. The American told federal agents who'd traveled to Ukraine last year as part of an investigation that the Russian soldiers had abducted him, stripped him naked, pointed a gun at his head, and badly beaten him, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

"The evidence gathered by our agents speaks to the brutality, criminality, and depravity of Russia's invasion," Mayorkas said. The case marks the first time the US has filed war crime charges in the victimization of an American, he said. Homeland Security and FBI investigators interviewed the American, his family, and others who were around the village of Mylove around the time of the kidnapping to identify the four Russians, Mayorkas said. Attorney General Merrick Garland has been outspoken on war crimes in Ukraine since Russia's invasion began in February 2022. Independent human-rights experts backed by the US have said they've found continued evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces, including torture that ended in the rape and death of women up to 83 years old.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia doesn't recognize the ICC and considers its decisions "legally void." He called the court's move "outrageous and unacceptable." The United States isn't a member of the ICC, but the Justice Department has been cooperating with it and supporting Ukrainian prosecutors as they carry out their own war crime investigations.

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The charges carry mostly symbolic significance for the moment, given the unclear prospects of any of the four defendants ever being brought to an American courtroom to face justice. They come as the Biden administration, in an effort to show continued support for Ukraine, is pressing Congress to approve military and economic aid for Kyiv's war effort. The US and Russia don't have an extradition treaty, but the Justice Department has brought repeated criminal cases against Russian nationals, most notably for cybercrimes and including for interference in the 2016 presidential election. In some of those cases, the defendants have been taken into custody by American officials, such as when they've traveled outside Russia.

(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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