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.

Putin awards ‘hero of Russia’ status for war crimes against Ukrainian civilians in Yahidne and Mariupol

Halya Coynash
Chalym Chuldum-ool’s brigade imprisoned 366 men, women and children in horrific conditions, using them as human shields, while Alexander Evtody is believed to have taken part in the bombing of civilians in Mariupol

Putin with Chalym Chuldum-ool Photo Putin’s press service

Putin with Chalym Chuldum-ool Photo Putin’s press service

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has yet again issued a high state award to an individual wanted for war crimes in Ukraine.  Chalym Chuldum-ool is a senior officer of the 55th motor rifle brigade which, in March 2022, turned the basement of a school in the village of Yahidne (Chernihiv oblast) into a concentration camp.  366 adults and children were held in horrific conditions for a month, with at least ten deaths as a result.  Putin declared Chuldum-ool a ‘Hero of Russia’ back in March 2024 and stood next to him during the May 9 military parade on Red Square.  On 30 May, Putin personally handed him ‘the star of a hero of Russia’. 

During the same ceremony, Putin also ‘honoured’ a second likely war criminal, namely Alexander Mikhailovich Evtody (or Yevtody).  The latter was identified by Bellingcat as one of the Russian military or militants from the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ responsible for the bombing of residential buildings in Mariupol in January 2015, causing the death of 29 civilians and one soldier, and injuring very many others.

Chuldum-ool and Evtody are by no means the only war criminals whom Putin has chosen to ‘glorify’ for their part in his war of aggression against Ukraine.  In April 2022, as the international community reeled from the evidence of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha and other occupied parts of Kyiv oblast, Putin issued a decree ‘honouring’ the 64th motor rifle brigade. Putin talked of “mass heroism and daring, tenacity and courage” in referring to the men who were almost certainly responsible for rapes, torture, indiscriminate killings and looting.   Putin has also issued state awards ‘for bravery’ to mercenaries, including those freed from long sentences to kill Ukrainians.  The recipients included (in his case, posthumously) Ivan Neparatov, the leader of a Russian criminal gang who had been serving a 25-year sentence for five murders and multiple other crimes before being pardoned by Putin and sent to fight, for money and his release, in the notorious Wagner unit against Ukraine.

Chalym Chuldum-ool, who is from Tuva, is one of a number of so-called ‘veterans’ of Russia’s war against Ukraine who took part in the so-called ‘primaries’ of the ruling ‘United Russia’ party.  Unlike many of those standing in Moscow, he was successful in Tuva, albeit, according to Verstka, with a very modest number of votes.

In announcing that he had been named ‘hero of Russia’ back on 8 March 2024, the state-controlled TASS press agency identified him as having “destroyed a column of Ukraine’s Armed Forces”, made up of five vehicles.  He is supposed to have personally killed around ten Ukrainian defenders.   

Moscow is certainly better off stressing such a ‘military conquest’, than Chuldum-ool’s likely involvement in the ill-treatment, torture and deaths of civilians in Yahidne, which certainly bears all of the hallmarks of a war crime.  It should not, however, be forgotten that Russia is committing another international crime, namely that of aggression against Ukraine, and Chuldum-ool has been actively complicit in that crime.

Yahidne is a small village, less than 20 kilometres from Chernihiv.  It was seized by the Russians seven days after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  For 27 days in March 2022, from 3 to 31 March, the invaders held 366 civilians, including the elderly and 69 children, in a basement (in an area of around 200 m²) while they tried, in vain, to gain control of Chernihiv.  The civilians were effectively used as human shields, to prevent Ukraine’s Army from striking the Russian invaders who took over the two upper levels of the school. The overcrowding was appalling in a basement without ventilation, and without toilets, with the residents forced to use buckets.  Those who died from the conditions and lack of any medical care reportedly were first delirious from the lack of oxygen.  If a person died in the evening, their body remained in the general area, together with adults and children. It was only the next morning that the invaders would allow the bodies to be carried to a boiler room.

A man suffering from cancer approached one of the Russian officers, pleading to be released so that he could be in his own bed and take the little medication he had left,  He was told to ‘hang himself’.  The grandmother of an infant who begged for them to allow the baby to have some fresh air heard “let it die”.

On 11 March 2024, the Chernihiv District Court under judge Svitlana Maiboroda handed down 12-year sentences, unfortunately in absentia, against 15 Russian military for holding the civilians prisoner and using them as human shields. 

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