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 sentences 18-year-old Ukrainian POW to 18 years for defending his country

Halya Coynash
The sentence against Vladyslav Plakhotnyk is chilling in its abuse of a flawed Supreme Court ruling to bring surreal ‘terrorism charges’ against a young man serving in his own country’s Armed Forces against an invader

Vladyslav Plokhotnyk Photo

Vladyslav Plokhotnyk Photo

Russia’s Southern District Military Court has sentenced a Ukrainian prisoner of war Vladyslav Plakhotnyk to 18 years’ maximum-security imprisonment on charges that openly flout international law.  The young man, who was just 18 when he joined the Ukrainian National Guard’s ‘Azov Regiment’ and fell into Russian captivity, was charged under Russia’s deeply flawed ‘terrorism’ legislation.

The report published by the Rostov regional prosecutor’s office after the sentence on 3 May deftly avoids identifying Plakhotnyk as a prisoner of war.  The latter has protected status under international law, and must not be prosecuted merely for carrying out his duties as a military serviceman. 

This is precisely what Russia is guilty of in Plakhotnyk’s case as the authors of the carefully crafted report clearly understand.  The headline states only that “a Ukrainian citizen has been convicted of taking part in the activities of a terrorist organization’.  Neither here, nor in the first paragraph, is ay mention made of the fact that Plakhotnyk is not only a military serviceman, but a prisoner of war.

The second paragraph states that in July 2023, the 18-year-old “voluntarily signed a contract to do military service in the Ukrainian militarized nationalist association ‘Azov’, the activities of which are banned on the territory of the Russian Federation, after which he was sent to a training centre of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”   

Azov is a regiment within Ukraine’s Armed Forces, not a ‘militarized nationalist association’.  Russia’s Supreme Court declared it ‘terrorist’ and banned it on 1 August 2022, just months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  This extraordinary ruling was widely seen as aimed at foisting a false narrative and persecuting Ukrainians for defending their country. 

This is precisely what has happened with Vladyslav Plakhotnyk, although the choice of victim seems especially shocking given the young man’s age.  In a propaganda video, during which only Plakhotnyk, who is blindfolded, is seen being ‘interrogated’,  the 18-year-old says that he served as a medic, helping evacuate the injured, etc.  Even if this was not the case, and he did indeed take place, as the prosecutor claims in direct military action, no use of false terms like ‘illegal armed formation’ can change the fact that the young Ukrainian was serving in Ukraine’s Armed Forces and was carrying out his duties. He was not on the territory of the Russian-occupied ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, but on Luhansk oblast territory that Russia was trying to seize.  Most importantly, Russia’s armed forces did not “thwart [Plakhotnyk’s] criminal activities”, they took a Ukrainian soldier prisoner, and then illegally fabricated charges against him.

Since the second half of 2023, Russia has been using either the Southern District Military Court in Rostov, or Russian-controlled and illegal ‘courts’ in occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to sentence Ukrainian POWs to up to life imprisonment. Most of these cases up till now, however, claimed that the Ukrainian POW’s had committed crimes against civilians, which could fall under ‘war crimes’.  Here Plakhotnykwas charged under Article 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code (‘taking part in the activities of a terrorist organization) and Article 205.3 (‘undergoing training in order to carry out terrorist activities’).  Although presiding ‘judge’ Sergei Vycheslavovich Obraztsov (and probably two colleagues) can have been in no doubt that the so-called ‘terrorist activities’ referred to the young soldier’s duties, Plakhotnyk was sentenced to 18 years with the first three years in a prison, the worst of Russia’s penal institutions,

The brazen nature of the charges against Plakhotnyk may signal a new and open form of terror against POWs, using a flawed Supreme Court ruling similar to that used since 2015 in occupied Crimea to sentence Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners to decades behind bars. Neither actual crime, nor real evidence, is required, with the Southern District Military Court in Rostov notorious for their role in convicting innocent men.  The same method is now being used as excuse for staging illegal ‘trials’ of Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

See also:

Ukrainian POW sentenced to life for defending Mariupol in brutal Russian replay of fake occupation court ‘trial’

Russia tortures more Ukrainian POWs and sentences them en masse to 27 years for defending Ukraine

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