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.

Ukraine passes life sentence on Russian soldier videoed killing Ukrainian civilians near Bucha

Halya Coynash
It was a war crime witnessed, on video footage, broadcast throughout the world, and even if Russia refuses to extradite such war criminals, the sentences are important for holding the aggressor state to account.

Video footage that showed the two unarmed Ukrainians being shot in the back by Russian soldiers

Video footage that showed the two unarmed Ukrainians being shot in the back by Russian soldiers

A Russian soldier has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the coldblooded killing of two unarmed Ukrainian civilians, captured on CCTV footage and broadcast around the world.  The sentence against Nikolai Sergeevich Sokovikov  [or Sovikov] was passed in absentia.  Although Russia will certainly not extradite him, Ukraine will, once the verdict has become final, place him on the international wanted list.  All such sentences are also an important part of the overall case against Russia over its war of aggression against Ukraine.

This really was a crime witnessed by people throughout the world after CNN published video surveillance footage showing the Russians killing unarmed civilians.  Although the footage was made public in May 2022, it dated back to the first days of Russia’s invasion and attempts to seize Kyiv.  On 19 March 2022, five Russians in a vehicle with the words ‘Tank special forces RUS’, arrived at a car dealer in Mriya (Bucha district in Kyiv oblast).  On the video, two men – the 61-year-old owner of the business, Serhiy Muravytsky and 68-year-old Leonid Pliashch, who worked there as a guard, can be seen approaching the Russian soldiers, with their hands in the air.  The footage is without sound, but it is clear that there was some kind of dialogue between the men, after which the two unarmed Ukrainians turned around and began walking back.  Two of the Russians opened fire, with the prosecution reporting that they sustained at least 12 gunshot wounds.  Serhiy Muravytsky was killed outright; Leonid Pliashch managed to get back to the building where he bled to death.

The Russians then proceeded to loot the building, loading their plunder into the vehicle, while also drinking and wandering around.  At one point, one of the soldiers can be seen trying on a cap that he’s found.  

It became clear in August 2022 that the investigators, under the procedural control of the Bucha Prosecutor’s Office, had identified the two Russians believed to have opened fire on the Ukrainian civilians.  28-year-old Nikolai Sergeevich Sokovikov is from Omsk and is described as a senior lieutenant of the Russian fifth separate guard tank brigade, deployed in Bucha during Russia’s occupation of that part of Kyiv oblast.

Since his present whereabouts are unknown, the proceedings against him were in absentia, with Russia informed that he was accused of war crimes (violation of the rules and practice of war) together with murder, under Articles 438 § 2 and 28 § 2 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code. At the beginning of September 2022, Radio Svoboda spoke with Sokovikov who admitted that it was him on part of the video, but claimed that the part with the shooting had nothing to do with him, and was a montage, added to the video.   In fact, CNN, who had posted the original surveillance footage, reported on 1 September 2022 that they had seen new footage which also shows the unarmed civilians being shot in the back, with two of the Russian soldiers shooting at them.

CNN issued requests to Russia’s defence ministry for comment, both in May 2022, and then before their second report. Both requests had, unsurprisingly, gone unanswered.

The charges against Sokovikov were passed to the court in March of 2023, with the court finding him guilty on 9 January 2024, and passing a life sentence.  The hearing was attended by prosecutor Roman Pshyk; lawyer Yury Myshko (seemingly state-provided) for Sokovikov, as well as Serhiy Muravytsky’s widow and daughter, and Leonid Pliashch’s son-in-law.  Sokovikov has 30 days to appeal the sentence, though this seems likely.  The lawyer stated that he had been unable to find any proof that Sokovikov was innocent, and that he considered the evidence provided by the prosecution to be reliable.

Other reports have identified the second Russian believed to have been involved in the shooting as Dmitry Lapshakov. In the above-mentioned omments to Radio Svoboda (where he denied any , Sokovikov confirmed that Lapshakov had been with him that day.

It was after Russia’s retreat from Kyiv oblast in early April 2022, that the war crimes and atrocities committed by Russian soldiers became clear, with bodies found on the street, in cellars and mass graves.  Many of the victims had been raped and / or tortured. 

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