Ukrainian POWs sentenced to life for Russia’s war crimes in Mariupol
Russia has used its fake ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ to pass further illegal ‘sentences’ against three Ukrainian prisoners of war, seized while defending Mariupol. The aggressor state, whom the world watched as it mercilessly bombed Mariupol and killedc countless civilians, is now intent on ‘rewriting history’ with Ukrainian soldiers defending their country cast as the ‘villains’.
Russia’s state-controlled TASS agency on 1 November that 51-year-old Oleh Kolmychevsky had been sentenced to life imprisonment. His fellow soldiers, Dmytro Dobrovolsky and Oleksandr Romashin, both of whom are just 22, had received 30-year sentences. All three men are from the Ukrainian Armed Forcesє 37th Motorized Infantry Battalion and were probably taken prisoner on or around 12 April 2022. From that moment on, Russia was required by international law to treat them as prisoners of war. Instead, they have clearly been imprisoned and treated like criminals. While POW status does not cover war crimes (including the coldblooded killing of civilians), any evidence that such crimes had been committed should be subjected to particular scrutiny. Russia is claiming that such crimes took place, yet is hiding behind a fake ‘republic’ which it created and controls, and which is on occupied territory, making it impossible for international observers to even visit the men. Under such circumstances, there are absolutely no grounds for believing the claims made, and no chance at all that the men had anything even approximating a fair trial.
The three men were accused of the murder of two or more people (Article 105 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code) with the relevant sections of this claiming that the alleged killing had been “carried out by an organized group out of motives of political and ideological hatred’. With supreme cynicism, a further charge was added of ‘cruel treatment of the civilian population on occupied territory’ (Article 386 § 1) with Russia’s puppet ‘republic’ seemingly asserting that Mariupol was ‘occupied territory’ before it fell under Russian control. The report claims that during the suspiciously lengthy space of time, namely from 24 February (when Russia began its full-scale invasion) and 12 April 2022, Dobrovolsky and Romashin had, on Kolmychevsky’s orders, detained and shot civilians noticed in the vicinity of their military position. They had, supposedly, killed seven male civilians and one female, with the report asserting that none had presented any danger and had been unarmed.
Had there genuinely been grounds for such accusations, and proof, Russia would, assuredly, have presented it, and would probably have staged the men’s ‘trial’ in a Russian court where hearings could be attended by representatives of different countries, journalists, etc. Instead we are told only that an illegitimate body called the ‘DPR high court’ sentenced the men, and have no information even as to whether the men had lawyers. Nor is credibility enhanced by the fact that Russia has now used the proxy ‘republics’ for numerous such stunts, and in essentially all these cases, the same charges are mentioned, with men defending their country against a foreign invader claimed to have been motivated by “political and ideological hatred’ All of these ‘trials’ are, in addition, totally illegal since Russia, as an occupying power, has no right to apply its legislation on occupied territory.
The charges are particularly cynical considering the months during which Russia bombed and shelled civilian targets, destroying up to 90% of Mariupol’s infrastructure. Not only did it refuse to guarantee humanitarian corridors, but Russian snipers targeted civilians around the few sources of drinking water in the besieged city. Russia began using Ukrainians forcibly taken to Russia to give bizarre ‘testimony’ trying to blame Ukraine for Russia’s most shocking crimes, such as the bombing of the maternity hospital and Drama Theatre. The ‘trials’ in occupied Donbas of prisoners of war appear aimed at pushing this same, ‘alternative reality’.
Around 2,500 Ukrainian prisoners of war were taken into captivity after Russia gained control of Mariupol in May 2022. Over 50 of them were killed in what there are grounds to believe was a deliberate explosion at the Olenivka camp in occupied Donbas. Others have faced or are now facing kangaroo court ‘trials’ and huge sentences.