Russia passes grotesque sentences against Azov Regiment POWs taken prisoner for defending Ukraine
Russia has again hidden behind its proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR’] in order to pass 24-year sentences against Ukrainian prisoners of war. There is no evidence to back the charges against the men which seem largely aimed at pushing a false narrative blaming Ukrainians for Russia’s most egregious war crimes in Ukraine.
reported the sentences on 16 August 2023. It claimed that the men were “fighters of the Ukrainian militarized nationalist Azov organization’. This is nonsense. Pavlo Artemenko and Anton Romaniuk are members of the Azov Regiment, which is part of the Ukrainian National Guard. They are unquestionably prisoners of war protected as such under international law.
Prisoner of war status does not protect a soldier from criminal liability for war crimes, but Russia must demonstrate that a proper investigation has been conducted, and that the ‘defendants’ had full access to independent lawyers and an open court of law. The reason for staging such stunts in the proxy ‘Donetsk and Luhansk republics’ is almost certainly to ensure that the men can be tortured into admitting to crimes that they did not commit and that there are no international witnesses to a travesty that has nothing in common with rule of law.
Here an unrecognized ‘DPR supreme court’ is supposed to have convicted the men of several charges under Russia’s criminal code: attempted murder of two or more people by an organized group for motives of ideological enmity (various parts of Article 105) and Article 30 § 3); ill-treatment of the civilian population and use of prohibited means in an armed conflict (Article 356 § 1) and deliberate damage of other people’s property causing considerable damage (Article 167 § 2). Russia can pretend that these are charges laid by an illegal and totally Russian-created, funded and controlled ‘republic’ as much as it likes. The truth is that the farcical allegations were made by an aggressor state which has killed huge numbers of civilians and either totally or nearly destroyed entire Ukrainian cities against Azov soldiers defending their own country.
It was claimed that the two soldiers had shelled civilian targets 60 times, shelling at least five residential buildings and caused damage amounting to 27 million roubles. This was purportedly during the period from 27 February to 13 March 2022 when Ukrainian soldiers were retreating from two populated areas claimed to have been part of ‘DPR’.
To reiterate, there is no evidence that any of the above took place, unlike the huge amount of witness evidence and media photographs and video footage proving that Russia was targeting just such civilian buildings.
This was essentially a replay of the recent ‘trial’ and 25-year sentence, passed on 10 August, against another Azov Regiment POW, Anatoliy Kiliushyn. It was claimed there that Kiliushyn and another man had killed a civilian on orders from their commander. The Russian state media reports gave strong grounds for suspecting that the ‘case’ was built around a ‘confession’ almost certainly tortured out of the 27-year-old soldier.
Then on 14 August, Russia’s prosecutor general yet another 25-year sentence passed by this same illegitimate ‘DPR court’. Azov Regiment POW, Andriy Bohdan was charged under the same articles of Russia’s criminal code as Pavlo Artemenko and Anton Romaniuk, except that he was accused of killing a wounded ‘DPR soldier’.
These alleged ‘trials’ and sentences are, presumably, to be used as ‘proof’ to back Russian attempts to turn reality upside down and blame Ukraine for the crimes its armed forces have been committing on Ukrainian territory. Such ‘proof’ is as valid as the puppet ‘court’ which Russia has used to obtain such ‘sentences’.