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.

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Russian paratrooper goes on trial in Ukraine for alleged war crimes in Kyiv oblast

Halya Coynash
33-year-old Pskov paratrooper, Andrei Medvedev admits to one episode where a civilian was subjected to mock executions but denies others
Andrei Medvedev in court 10.04.2023 Photo Stas Yurchenko
Andrei Medvedev in court 10.04.2023 Photo Stas Yurchenko

The trial has commenced in Kyiv oblast of 33-year-old Russian paratrooper, Andrei Medvedev, a corporal from Russia’s 76th Pskov Air Assault Division (regiment No. 104).  He is charged at present with war crimes (‘violating the laws and customs of war’, under Article 438 § 1 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code). This is in connection with three episodes in which he is alleged to have imitated the execution of civilians, however charges over ill-treatment of civilians are also pending.  If convicted of the changes already laid, Medvedev faces a sentence of up to 12 years.

Ukraine’s National Police reported on 25 January that two Russians had been informed that they were suspected of mock executions; beatings and physical violence against civilians; and of plundering buildings in Kyiv oblast.  The men are not named, but are identifiable as Medvedev and his commander, Aleksandr Veselkov, whose current whereabouts are unknown.  Medvedev was wounded and captured in Kherson oblast in September 2022, and has been in custody ever since.

Together with other Russian military from part of the 76th Pskov division, they invaded the settlement outside Irpin (Kyiv oblast) in March 2022 and seized a private building which they set up as their headquarters. Their tasks were to accompany military technology moving via the forest towards Irpin and to carry out so-called ‘checks’ of local residents.  Their actions, however, also included plundering both the building they seized and others nearby.

The preliminary hearing took place on 10 April at the Irpin Municipal Court, but was, however, adjourned, both because the lawyer appointed by the state only works in Kyiv, and because two of the three men with victim status due in court did not appear.  These were Oleksandr Yakovenko and Ruslan Kizimov. The prosecution accuses Medvedev and the other Russian paratroopers of having found the two Ukrainians on the territory of a hospital and ordered them to get on their knees with their heads next to each other.  He then, it is asserted, fired several shots, with the men having every reason to believe they were being executed.  In the absence of a lawyer for Medvedev and these two witnesses, judge Natalia Karabaza adjourned the hearing for a month.

One of the three victims, Oleksandr Petrenko, was present and spoke with Graty correspondent Tetiana Kozak. He explained that, after the Russians invaded, they prohibited all those (few) civilians remaining in the urban settlement to leave their own courtyards.  With food stocks dwindling and no water, the locals still secretly climbed over fences to visit and support each other.   

Petrenko was asleep, in the same premises as his neighbour Vadim, when five Russian soldiers appeared and demanded they come out with their hands above their heads.

Both men were ordered to undress, and Petrenko proved to have Ukrainian Army thermal underwear on.  He explained that he had been given this by a neighbour before she fled the Russians, but one of the Russians put a pistol to his head, demanding to know if he was a Ukrainian soldier.  He said no, but the soldier fired two shots, next to Petrenko’s ear, almost deafening him, and also hit him around the head, causing him to fall.  He then told Petrenko to stand up and, when he did so, fired another shot.  He later also hit the Ukrainian hard in the chest.  The other Russian forced him out onto the street, holding a machine gun to him. As Petrenko fell from the blow to his chest, he heard two machine gun volleys. 

The hearing took a long time to begin, and at one point, Petrenko broke the silence by approaching the glass structure where Medvedev was sitting.  He asked him whether nothing had changed for him, and when Medvedev asked why he was asking, said: “I’m just interested; here you are, having come to Ukraine”.  Medvedev said only that he didn’t have to answer the question. He was also clearly irritated when asked why he had come to Ukraine to fight, and said that he had not asked “such questions” and that he had not been about to throw away 12 years of military service.  He was happy enough, however, to get into ideological arguments, repeating Russia’s excuses for its war of aggression against Ukraine and narrative about NATO, etc.

The Russian paratrooper also told journalists that he admits to only one episode, that involving Petrenko, and denies committing the others. He appeared indignant that the earlier police report said that he had fought also in Syria, as well as in occupied Crimea; Donetsk; Luhansk; and other Ukrainian oblasts.  It was only the mention of Syria he seemed to object to, suggesting that the police were trying to make him appear “bloodthirsty”. 

The 76th Pskov Air Assault Division are known to have been involved in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine back in August 2014.  It was, in fact, heavy losses among Pskov paratroopers that were first reported in Russia and prompted headlines like “If Russia is not at war, then who is in those freshly-dug graves?”  and acts of violence against the Pskov politician Lev Shlosberg who first reported the deaths that Moscow was taking grotesque measures to conceal.

Graty knows of four other paratroopers from the Pskov Division who have also been taken prisoner in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion:  Vladimir Safronov; Senior Lieutenant Aleksandr Lonin; Sergeant Roman Belousov, all from the same regiment No. 104, and Mikhail Timashov from regiment no. 237.

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