(MENAFN- Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (KUNA) -- US Secretary of Justice Merrick Garland said Wednesday his Department filed the first ever charges under the US war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for "heinous crimes against an American citizen."
Garland made the announcement at a joint press conference with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Chris Wray, Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica Aber and ICE Acting Deputy Director Staci Barrera.
"On February 24, 2022, Russia commenced its full-scale, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
"In the nearly two years since, we have all seen invading Russian forces commit atrocities on the largest scale in any European armed conflict since the Second World War," he recalled.
"We have all heard the accounts of Ukrainian civilians targeted and executed, Ukrainian children forcibly deported, and Ukrainian women and girls sexually assaulted.
"And 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 U.S. war crimes statute against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen," Secretary Garland.
"Congress passed the US war crimes statute nearly 30 years ago to give us jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes committed against American citizens abroad.
"In an indictment returned yesterday in the Eastern District of Virginia, we have charged four Russia-affiliated military personnel with war crimes against an American citizen living in Ukraine," he pointed out.
The charges include conspiracy to commit war crimes, including war crimes outlawed by the international community after World War II - unlawful confinement, torture, and inhuman treatment.
"Like all defendants in the US criminal justice system, the defendants in this case are entitled to due process of law and are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"We allege that in April of 2022, two commanding officers of Russia-affiliated forces, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, as well as two lower-ranking soldiers, whose first names are Valerii and Nazar, committed war crimes against an American citizen who had been living in Ukraine since 2021.
"That victim was living in Mylove, a small village in Southern Ukraine, and was not participating in the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. As such, the victim was what is known as 'a protected person,' under international law," he went on.
After Russian forces invaded Mylove, the victim was abducted from his home by three of the defendants - Mkrtchyan, who was one of the commanding officers, and Valerii and Nazar, the lower-ranking soldiers - and their co-conspirators.
"During the abduction, we allege that those defendants threw the victim to the ground while he was naked, tied his hands behind his back, pointed a gun at his head, and beat him with their feet, their fists, and the stocks of their guns.
"We allege that they forced him into a building that Russia-affiliated forces were using as a jail, and into a closet that they were using as a jail cell.
"We allege that, as they interrogated him, they tortured him. They beat him, again, with a gun. They punched him in his chest and stomach.
"They threatened to shoot him. They stripped off his clothes and took pictures. One of their conspirators threatened to sexually assault him," Garland added. (end)
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