The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it is charging four Russian military personnel with war crimes.
The charges, which were revealed as part of an unsealed indictment that came out of Virginia, are being used under a statute for war crimes that is now being used for the first time in its history, after first being enacted almost 30 years ago.
The soldiers are being charged with torturing an American citizen who lives in Ukraine’s Kherson region, which has been one of the most war-torn areas of the country.
As part of a statement that revealed the prosecution, Attorney General Merrick Garland also said there could be more charges against any other Russian who was found to have committed “atrocities on the largest scale in any European armed conflict since the Second World War.”
In the same statement, Garland said the DOJ has opened a formal investigation into the “murder of more than 30 Americans” by Hamas during its attack on Israel back in early October. That investigation is being conducted using both the same war crimes law that’s charging the Russian soldiers, as well as various anti-terrorism statutes.
The four Russian soldiers all currently live in Russia. It’s not expected that those people would travel abroad in the near future, since they could then be captured and tried for their crimes.
At the same time, the prosections fall under a much broader effort being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the DOJ to hold all military officials in Russia, as well as any proxy forces, accountable for any brutal act that they commit against the small number of Americans who work, live or fight in Ukraine.
The court filings didn’t identify the American citizen who was the subject of the attack by the four Russian soldiers.
Prosecutors did say the man was abducted from his home in the southern village of Mylove in April of 2022, even though he told the Russian military that he wasn’t combatant and had been living there since 2021 with his wife.
The victim was kept in captivity for about 10 days, prosecutors say, during which time soldiers with paramilitary groups as well as the Russian Armed Forces brutally beat him with their guns and fists and levied many other threats against him.
Two of the soldiers being charged are commanders – Dmitry Budnik and Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan. The other two soldiers are subordinates who only were identified by their first names in the indictment.
Prosecutors say the group all subjected the American citizen to vicious sessions of interrogation, accusing him of being an operative for the American government.
Eventually, the victim was released from captivity and was evacuated to the United States, according to officials.
At the press conference to announce the charges, FBI Director Christopher Wray said:
“We’re resolved to hold war criminals accountable no matter where they are or how long it takes.”