US charges Russian soldiers with war crimes over alleged mistreatment of American in Ukraine

US attorney general Merrick Garland says American man not a combatant and should have been viewed as a ‘protected person’ in war

The United States has charged four Russian soldiers with war crimes for allegedly abducting, mistreating and torturing an American citizen during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

US attorney general Merrick Garland said on Wednesday it was the first time that the US had brought such a prosecution based on war crimes legislation.

The charges brought in a court in Virginia include torture, mistreatment and unlawful confinement of a US citizen.

The indictment stated the American man had been living in a village in southern Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion early last year. It said he had been abducted, held for 10 days, assaulted, interrogated and threatened with execution.


The indictment said the man was not a participant in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and was a “protected person” under the provisions of the Geneva conventions.

Two of four men charged were identified as Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik. Two other individuals included in the indictment were identified only by their first names, Valerii and Nazar. The US citizen was not named in the court documents and was referred to as “V-1″.

The defendants are not in US custody and are unlikely to appear in the US to face the charges.

The indictment said the accused Russian military personnel stripped the American naked, tied his hands behind his back and assaulted him with their fists, feet and the stocks of their guns.

It said that while being held in an improvised military compound, the US citizen was beaten on the back of his head with a gun, punched and threatened with being shot and sexually assaulted.

It said he was also taken outside and subjected to a mock execution in which he was forced to the ground and had a gun placed by his head and a bullet fired just past him. The man believed he was about to die, the indictment said.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Garland described the charges as “an important step towards accountability for the illegal war in Ukraine”.

“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice. That is why the justice department has filed the first-ever charges under the US war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen.”

US homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said agents had last year travelled to meet the American citizen, who had been evacuated from Ukraine. He said that over the last 12 months they had worked to corroborate the victim’s allegations.

Mr Mayorkas promised the “United States will hold the Russian perpetrators of this unthinkable mistreatment, these unacceptable human rights violations, accountable”.

“As today’s announcement makes clear, when an American citizen’s human rights are violated, their government will spare no effort, and spare no resource, to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily - Find the latest episode here
Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent