DOJ charges four Russian soldiers with war crimes related to Ukraine invasion

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has charged four Russian soldiers with war crimes in connection with the invasion of Ukraine.

Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, Dmitry Budnik and two others whose last names are unknown — who have the first names of Valerii and Nazar — are charged “in connection with their unlawful detainment of a U.S. national in the context of the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” DOJ said.

The indictment, returned in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that the four interrogated, beat and tortured an American victim, threatening to kill him in a mock execution.

Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing the indictment Wednesday.Mark Schiefelbein / AP

After the mock execution, the victim “was forced to perform manual labor, such as digging trenches, on behalf of the Russian Armed Forces and/or [Donetsk People’s Republic] military units,” the indictment says.

The American, identified only as “V-1” in the indictment, was not involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, according to DOJ. He was living in Mylove, a small village in southern Ukraine, and was kidnapped from his home by Russian soldiers, the indictment says.

“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. “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 Justice Department will work for as long as it takes to pursue accountability and justice for Russia’s war of aggression.”

Mkrtchyan, Budnik and the two other Russian soldiers are charged with four counts: conspiracy to commit war crimes and three war crimes (unlawful confinement of a protected person, inhuman treatment and torture).