Nine Azov Regiment prisoners of war sentenced by fake Russian court to 25 years for defending Ukraine
Nine Ukrainian defenders from the Azov Battalion have received ‘sentences’ of between 23 and 25 years from a pseudo court in Russia’s proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ . This new batch of illegal conveyor belt ‘sentences’ comes just weeks after condemned Russia’s systematic violations of international law, including such prosecutions of Ukrainian prisoners of war who have protected status under the Third Geneva Convention. All of these staged ‘trials’ are of particular cynicism given that Russia is accusing Ukrainians of the war crimes it was seen to be committing in Mariupol.
Russia’s attempts to rewrite the facts about its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its siege and relentless bombing of Mariupol may be effective where, as in Russia itself and on occupied territory, it can use total censorship, draconian legislation and terror. They cannot override the documentary evidence, video footage and witness testimony which the International Criminal Court and other prosecutors, human rights NGOs and international media all amassed. The world effectively saw how Russia bombed a maternity hospital, and how, just hours after the UN’s International Court of Justice ordered it to stop all military action, it dropped two bombs on the Mariupol Drama Theatre which was known to be sheltering over a thousand civilians and had the words ‘CHILDREN’ written in Russia at the front and back. The FSB’s later use of residents forcibly taken to Russia for garbled claims that Ukraine was somehow behind such crimes only demonstrated how much Moscow had to hide. So too do Russia’s ‘trials’ of Ukrainian prisoners of war [POW] however these are, in themselves, also war crimes.
The Russian state controlled TASS press agency on 20 December that the unrecognized ‘Donetsk people’s republic supreme court’ had passed the sentences against nine soldiers from what it falsely describes as “the Azov nationalist organization”, adding that this ‘organization’ has been declared ‘terrorist’ in the Russian Federation. The Azov Regiment is part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, and any member of it is entitled to protected status as a prisoner of war. This was confirmed in the OSCE ODIHR Fourth Interim Report on reported violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Ukraine. In expressing concerns about such ‘trials’, the report stresses that “it is important to note that the designation of the battalion as a ‘terrorist organization’ is irrelevant for the purpose of IHL and does not change their POW status and the rights afforded to them under the Third Geneva Convention”.
The nine men were convicted, under Russian legislation, of “attempts to kill two or more people in a dangerous manner out of motives of enmity and hostility, through the use of prohibited means and methods in an armed conflict and damage of other’s property.” It was claimed that from 25 February to 17 March 2022, the men had shelled the village of Lebedynske which is falsely claimed to have been part of Russia’s so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ , i.e. Russian-occupied. They are claimed to have shelled four residential buildings, and caused “more than 2.3 million roubles”.
Had Russia genuinely had proof of any of this, it would not be staging such spectacles on occupied territory, where the men have no access to international monitors nor to fundamental rule of law. Instead, the only information about such ‘trials’ typically comes when Russia’s Investigative Committee or Prosecutor General announces huge sentences. Where ‘evidence’ is claimed, it comes from videoed ‘confessions’ clearly given under torture or other forms of duress.
The nine men are: Mykola Kuzmenko; Oleksiy Kachuievsky; Bohdan Pechko; Anatoliy Mohylny; Vladyslav Syhys; Mykola Sviaty; Vadym Lohosha; Yaroslav Bezmenov and Maksym Dubrov. It was claimed that Kuzmenko and Pechko had given orders and they were sentenced to 25 years, with one person getting 23 years and the others 24 years.
This really is a conveyor belt, with two ‘sentences’ against Ukrainian defenders Serhiy Benza and Yan Danilov. Benza received a life sentence, Danilov – 24 years.
These are men who were captured while defending their country from an invading force, and the aggressor state is now compounding its crimes and disregard for international law through such appalling persecution.