Chechen Officer Held 500 Civilians “as Human Shields”

Hostages included people with severe chronic and mental illnesses.

Chechen Officer Held 500 Civilians “as Human Shields”

Hostages included people with severe chronic and mental illnesses.

Daniil Martynov (centre) has been charged with violating the laws and customs of war, including forcing nearly 500 people in a special needs boarding school to serve as human shields.
Daniil Martynov (centre) has been charged with violating the laws and customs of war, including forcing nearly 500 people in a special needs boarding school to serve as human shields. © Security Service of Ukraine
Tuesday, 14 March, 2023

A Chechen commander has been charged with violating the laws and customs of war, including forcing nearly 500 people in a special needs boarding school to serve as human shields.

Daniil Martynov, originally from the Moscow region of Russia, is deputy head of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Russian Federation for the Chechen Republic.
 
According to the Ukrainian Security Service, the 39-year-old used to be a Russian special forces officer and is now responsible for training the personal guard of the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.

According to the investigation, Martynov led subordinate military personnel to illegally cross the state border of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 in the area of the city of Pripyat, Kyiv region. On March 5, he arrived at the Borodianka special needs boarding school located 50 km from Kyiv. 

There he gave orders and directly participated in the use of the civilian population as human shields.

The investigation found that there were nearly 500 civilians in the institution, which also has a geriatric department. These were made up of patients, staff and residents of the Borodianka settlement. 

Among the patients were people with severe chronic and mental illnesses, including those who could not take care of themselves. 

The civilians spent the morning of March 5 sheltering from shelling in the basement of the facility. In the afternoon, after knocking down the gate, several cars and an armored personnel carrier marked with the letter V on the body entered the territory of the boarding school. They contained Russian military personnel from the Chechen republic under Martynov’s command. 

According to the case file, the accused ordered his subordinates to search the boarding school, gather all the civilians in one place and take their mobile phones. Following these orders, the Russian military searched the facility, kicking down doors, breaking drawers and throwing items on the floor. 

Civilians were gathered in the hall of the boarding school and interrogated as to whether there were Ukrainian military personnel on the territory of the boarding school. The Russian soldiers threatened to kill them for hiding Ukrainian forces.

Then, on Martynov's orders, the director of the boarding school was brought to him. He told the woman that civilians would be under Russian protection only if they participated in a video clip. He then ordered subordinates to organise its filming.  

The Russian military lined people up in the hall in a semicircle. The servicemen who were visible behind the civilians lowered their weapons, while those standing behind the man filming the mobile phone video - and therefore could not be seen in the clip - raised their weapons and aimed them at the Ukrainians. 

Martynov told the director that they should record their thanks to the president of the Russian Federation "for the fact that you are all alive". The accused then told the camera that he was a colonel with the Russian army, and that the military of the Chechen Republic had come to "liberate" civilians "from the Nazi authorities", 

However, when recording the video clip, the Russian military did not manage to get the images of grateful civilians that they had desired. 

Martynov informed the director of the boarding school that all civilians present were now forbidden to leave the institution’s territory under threat of death. The director fainted from the stress she experienced, and many of the patients became extremely distressed.

The accused ordered his subordinates to set up a post which Russian soldiers manned from March 5-15 to ensure that no one left the boarding school. During that period, civilian access to water, food, medical care and communication with loved ones was limited. 

There was no electricity, heating or water in the boarding school. Food for nursing home patients and people sheltering there was prepared on an open fire in the yard. The only source of sustenance was the boarding house's own supplies, and the only water came from a nearby well.  But due to the fact that the Russian military took water from it with barrels, there was almost none left for civilians. 

Mobile phones were taken away from the civilians and they were forbidden to use radio receivers. They could not communicate with their relatives and had no idea what was going on in the outside world. 

Due to the cold weather, lack of heating, stress and absence of medical assistance, people began to become ill and experienced psychological distress. During the occupation, 13 people died at the boarding school. Following her release, the director of the institution told the Ukrainian bihus.info outlet that people were dying from stress and cold. 

Martynov ordered his subordinates to place military personnel around the perimeter of the boarding school and set up firing positions. They installed Grad multiple rocket launchers and self-propelled artillery systems so as to shell the nearest settlements and positions of the Ukrainian armed forces. 

Due to the fact that close to 500 civilians were in the boarding school at that time, this allowed the Russians to minimise the possibility of return fire. According to the investigation, the Russian military used these people as human shields for their own protection, defence of their positions and the obstruction of the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces.

People stayed in the boarding school for 20 days under occupation. Of these, ten days were spent as hostages of Kadyrov's forces. They were then able to organise a humanitarian corridor and leave for safer places. 

In the autumn of 2022, Martynov was declared an internationally wanted man, and the court granted permission for a special pre-trial investigation. The investigating judge noted that the circumstances of the crime, in combination with the events taking place in Ukraine due to Russian military aggression, proved with sufficient completeness that Martynov was hiding in the territory of the Russian Federation for the purpose of evading criminal liability.

In November 2022, the indictment on this case was transferred to the Borodyansky district
court of the Kyiv region. Martynov is charged with the cruel treatment of civilians under part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code of Ukraine, with the director of the boarding school declared as the injured party. 

The court proceedings in Martynov’s case are at the stage of a preparatory meeting. The accused continues to be summoned to court as required by Ukrainian legislation. After Martynov’s non-appearance, the court will be able to satisfy the request for implementation of special court proceedings and begin considering the case on its merits.

This publication was prepared under the “Ukraine Voices Project" implemented with the financial support of the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).


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