war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russian propaganda chief Kiselyov gets his nephew jailed in Germany for involvement in war in Ukraine

Halya Coynash
48-year-old Sergei Kiselev has been jailed by a regional court in Germany for training to fight in the war in Donbas, with the evidence of his active part in fighting against Ukraine currently being studied by Germany’s Prosecutor General.

48-year-old Sergei Kiselev (or Kisseljow) has been jailed by a regional court in Germany for training to fight in the war in Donbas, with the evidence of his active part in fighting against Ukraine currently being studied by Germany’s Prosecutor General.  The trial is first and foremost because of Kiselev’s decision to fight for the so-called ‘Russian world’ on Ukrainian territory, but he undoubtedly has his propagandist uncle to thank for that decision being brought to the attention of the authorities in Germany.

Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the state news agency Russia Today, has been called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spin doctor for the major role he has played in pro-Kremlin propaganda, especially since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.  During an interview in 2016, he stated that his nephew had fought in Donbas on the side of the self-proclaimed and Russian-led, armed and controlled ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [DPR], near Horlivka.  This was noticed by the Bavarian prosecutor and an arrest warrant issued against Kiselev who was, in 2018, extradited back to Germany from Bulgaria. 

The trial in the Regional Court in Munich ended on 28 February after just two hearings with a sentence of two years and three months’ imprisonment. 

He was accused only of preparing to commit a serious crime endangering national security, not actually committing it, as well as of a firearms possession offence (which was withdrawn and not part of the sentence).  The prosecution asserted that Kiselev had, in August 2014, undergone military training at a far-right camp near St. Petersburg.

He could still have faced up to 10 years’ imprisonment, so the sentence received was very lenient.  According to RTVi whose correspondent reported from the courtroom, the prosecutor, defence and court agreed on a low sentence because Kiselev partially admitted guilt.  

The defence’s line was that none of the photos from St Petersburg showed Kiselev taking direct part in militarized training, though the video footage of this far-right paramilitary ‘training’ site run by the ‘Empire’s Legion’ is extremely disturbing.  Kiselev and his lawyer claimed that he had not taken part in the training, had simply been waiting to be sent to Donbas and did not share the ‘Empire’s Legion’ ideology.  The latter describes itself as “an Orthodox militant brotherhood, with a glorious history and upholding the interests of the Russian people on all fronts”

This, RTVi notes, does not explain why it was specifically Kiselev who led a unit of ten men to Donbas, and why he received an ‘Empire’s Legion’ medal.

Die Welt reports that Kiselev can be seen posing with twelve other men, most of whom are in camouflage gear and holding ‘DPR’ flags.

RTVi explains that if charges of direct involvement in the fighting in Donbas are deemed warranted, that case will be taken up by the federal prosecutor.

It is difficult to see how such charges could not be viewed as appropriate and this has nothing to do with Dmitry Kiselyov’s wish to make a propaganda coup out of his nephew’s activities in Donbas.  In the face of undeniable photo evidence, Kiselev’s lawyer admits that his client was in Donbas, and did bear arms.  He claims, however, that this was for good motives and that he was concerned for the security of the Russian people.  He supposedly did not kill anybody and “absolutely clearly distanced himself from any atrocities”

It is probably not surprising that Kiselev’s lawyer should come out with such statements about his client’s allegedly good motives in going off to show “concern for the Russian people” in sovereign Ukraine.  In an excerpt from an earlier interview, Kiselev can be heard talking about “the fight for Russian land, Russian cities and Russian people, and saying that after thinking about this, he set off (for Donbas).

Kiselev arrived in Germany back in 1996 and has German citizenship.  He appears to be or have been a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Many of the Russian ’volunteers’ or mercenaries who have fought for Russia’s proxy ’republics’ in Donbas have mixed their ’Russian world’ ideology with a highly specific form of allegiance to the Orthodox Church. 

It is obviously for the Federal Prosecutor to decide, but the photos and interviews suggesting Kiselev’s involvement in the fighting in Donbas do not seem less than the evidence in Britain deemed sufficient in July 2017 for Benjamin Stimson to be convicted under the UK Terrorism Act and jailed for five years and four months for taking part in the fighting in Donbas on the side of the Russian and Russian-backed militants.  Stimson had claimed in court that he only went to Donbas “to drive an ambulance”.   Two Czech nationals are also facing similar terrorism charges.

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