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.

Fake Russian occupation ‘court’ sentences Ukrainian POWs to 17 years for guarding Ukraine's territory

Halya Coynash
Instead of complying with international law and treating Vasyl Dmytriuk and Ivan Tereshchenko as prisoners of war, Russia concocted preposterous charges from 2018
’Nord’, the fishing boat used by Russia for grotesque charges against two Ukrainian POWs Photo posted on Facebook in March 2018 by the Border Guard Service
’Nord’, the fishing boat used by Russia for grotesque charges against two Ukrainian POWs Photo posted on Facebook in March 2018 by the Border Guard Service

The Russian occupation ‘Crimean high court’ has sentenced Vasyl Dmytriuk and Ivan Tereshchenko to 17 years’ maximum-security imprisonment on insane charges.  The two Ukrainian prisoners of war, seized in Mariupol in 2022, were accused of ‘abduction’ and ‘’hijacking a vessel’ for carrying out their duties as border guards back in 2018. 

Both Dmytriuk and Tereshchenko were among the Ukrainian defenders who obeyed military orders and withdrew from the Azovstal Steel Works in Mariupol on 16 May 2022.  They are undoubtedly prisoners of war and Russia’s treatment of them is in glaring violation of international law.

The Crimean Human Rights Group reports that Ivan Tereshchenko was first sent to the Olenivka prison in occupied Donetsk oblast, then to a prison in occupied Horlivka, near Donetsk.  From there, he was illegally taken to SIZO [remand prison] No. 2 in occupied Simferopol (Crimea) where he has been imprisoned since at least 31 August 2023.  It is unclear whether Dmytriuk was held in the same places.   

Russia has staged a huge number of fake ‘trials’ against Ukrainian POWs, especially those who defended Mariupol, with the charges in very many cases based solely on ‘confessions’ clearly tortured out of men held incommunicado and without access to independent lawyers. 

The charges against Dmytriuk and Tereshchenko are no less lawless but are somewhat different as they pertain to real events back in 2018.  Vasyl Dmytriuk was lieutenant captain of a shore defence vessel, while Ivan Tereshchenko was the commander of the mechanical and electrical team on a border guard vessel. They were both serving (Dmytriuk as captain) on the same boat of Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service when, on 25 March 2018 in the Sea of Azov, they detained a fishing boat from occupied Crimea, travelling under a Russian flag.  Crimean Process explains that the boat and crew were found to have documents illegally issued by the unrecognized occupation ‘authorities’.  The boat was seized, with Ukraine’s prosecutor initiating criminal proceedings over the boat’s departure from a port in Russian-occupied Kerch which Ukraine has, because of the illegal annexation, closed.  The crew were prosecuted under administrative charges for infringing Ukraine’s border regulations.

All of this was in full accordance with both Ukrainian and international law.  Russia’s invasion and ongoing occupation of Crimea is in violation of both, as was its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.  Yet, in May 2022, when two of the Ukrainian border guards were seized by the Russian invaders of Mariupol and should have been treated, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, as prisoners of war, Russia brought surreal and illegal charges under Russian legislation against both men.  The two were charged under Article 126 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code (abduction of a person) and Article 211 § 3 (hijacking of a water-bound vessel). 

This nonsense was enacted as a ‘trial’ before the occupation ‘Crimean high court’ under ‘judge’ Sergei Nikolaevich Pogrebniak.  It was he who, on 10 June 2024, sentenced both Dmytriuk and Tereshchenko to 17 years harsh-regime (i.e. maximum security) imprisonment, with the first three years in a prison, the harshest of all Russian penal institutions.  All of this information was received from the men’s families as the ‘court’ website concealed even the men’s names giving only the fact that a ‘guilty’ verdict had been handed down on 10 June 2024.  There were a number of ‘hearings’ from 12 February 2024, so the preposterous charges were almost certainly challenged.  There is, at present, no information as to whether the men had independent lawyers, and whether an appeal will be lodged.

Russia’s ill-treatment and torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war, its fabrication of criminal charges against them, as well as horrific cases where POWs were killed in cold blood, have been documented by international UN and other bodies and widely condemned.  See, for example,

UN records 32 summary executions by Russia of Ukrainian prisoners of war since December

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