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.

Russia’s fake ‘Donetsk republic’ sentences Azov Regiment soldier defending Ukraine in Mariupol to 25 years.

Halya Coynash
Four Ukrainian POWs have been ‘sentenced’ this month to 25 or 29 years without any evidence of a crime and with effectively no chance of a fair trial

Anatoliy Kiliushyn

Anatoliy Kiliushyn

The Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR’] has sentenced a Ukrainian defender from the Azov Regiment to 25 years, accusing him of killing a civilian in Mariupol.  The ‘sentence’ reported by Russian state media on 10 August was the second in the last week with Russia clearly using its military occupation of Mariupol to try to rewrite history and present Ukrainian defenders as the killers of civilians during Russia’s siege and bombardment of the city.

Anatoliy Kiliushyn is identified as the commander of a unit within the Azov Regiment.  It was claimed that, in April 2022, he and another man had stopped a civilian and later, on orders from Kiliushyn’s commander, had shot and killed him. Although the Russian state-controlled RIA Novosti agency claims that Kiliushyn expressed ‘repentance’ and said that he had “received what he deserved”, he is in Russian captivity and almost certainly held in complete isolation and without any access to an independent lawyer.  We know from all of those released in exchanges of prisoners that horrific torture is the standard method of extracting ‘confessions’. It is noticeable that this alleged ‘repentance’ is mentioned after a brief report that, otherwise, provides nothing to link the Ukrainian defender with the violent death of a man whose body was discovered, blindfolded and with hands tied behind his back, by local residents.  The latter allegedly reported that the man was engaged in delivering humanitarian aid.

Kiliushyn is said to have been sentenced by the so-called ‘DPR supreme court’ to 25 years in a harsh-regime prison colony and was also “ordered to pay 20 million roubles to three civilian plaintiffs”. Another propaganda site says that 27-year-old Kiliushyn was charged and ‘convicted’ under two charges from Russia’s criminal code: Article 356 § 1 (the use of prohibited means and methods of waging war) and several parts of Article 105 § 2 (murder, committed by an organized group, motivated by political, ideological enmity).

These same charges were used on 7 August 2023 when Russia’s prosecutor general’s office reported that the same ‘DPR supreme court’ had sentenced three Ukrainian marines: : 20-year-old Andriy Kovtun; Danylo Ovchynnykov (22) and Yury Tyshchenko (24)  to 29 years.  According to the Russian version, the three Ukrainian marines had, between 15 March and 2 April 2022, detained two male civilians and imprisoned them in a garage.  Although they had ascertained that the men were not Russian soldiers, the marines were supposed to have been told by their commander to get rid of the men which they allegedly did by taking them to an abandoned apartment block and killing them, “using Kalashnikov rifles” and throwing the bodies in a basement.  They are later alleged to have killed another man in a lane near where they were based.  No names are given, nor any reason for believing that the civilians were killed by Ukrainian marines. 

It is probably significant that these alleged ‘trials’ took place in occupied Donetsk, without any access to independent observers or media.  While the Ukrainians’ prisoner of war status would not protect them against prosecution for killing civilians in cold blood, Russia and its proxies are obliged to provide fair trials, and there is nothing to suggest that these were anything of the sort.  This is of particular relevance given the huge amount of evidence from Mariupol residents who managed to flee, from journalists working for western press agencies, etc. in the besieged city, and the reports of international monitors. All such evidence points to the killing of civilians, like in later liberated parts of the Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts, having been by Russian fighters, especially those linked with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Neither of the reports mentions any proof that the Ukrainians were responsible, if those killings did take place.

Russia began using Mariupol residents who were forcibly taken to Russia for ‘witness testimony’, often videoed, claiming that Ukrainian defenders had committed some of Russia’s most heinous (and undeniable) war crimes, such as the bombing of a Mariupol maternity hospital on 9 March 2022 and the Drama Theatre, sheltering over a thousand civilians, on 16 March. There seems every reason for scepticism about the above ‘trials’.  Any ‘witness testimony’ to back the charges against the four Ukrainian POWs is likely to have been obtained in similar fashion, with the ensuing ‘trials’ executed by a ‘court’ which is recognized only by Russia. There were serious grounds for Freedom House’s 2021 assessment of occupied Donbas as near North Korea, with the lack of rule of law and any chance of a fair trial of paramount importance. 

Suspicion is only exacerbated by the lack of any obvious reason for Kiliushyn and the three marines to have been ‘tried’ in occupied Donetsk.  They were charged under Russian legislation, with the indictment very similar to that in the ‘trial’ now ending at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia) of another Ukrainian marine, Anton Cherednyk.  In his case, there is actual evidence that Cherednyk killed the alleged civilian.  He himself does not deny this, but has made it clear in an open court, where he is represented by a lawyer, that he believed he was doing this in self-defence, as the man had made a sharp move and might have had a gun.  Cherednyk also denies the entirely surreal ‘Ukrainian language’ element to the charges (details here). 

Russia is also planning a number of show trials, on evidently flawed charges, of Ukrainian POWs, including one against 18 members of the Aidar Battalion and of 22  men and women, some of whom are from the Azov Battalion (see: Russia begins illegal show ‘trial’ of Ukrainian POWs for defending Ukraine in besieged Mariupol

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