Russian troops captured Ivanivka last year at the beginning of March and occupied it until July 2 when their forces retreated.
Russian troops captured Ivanivka last year at the beginning of March and occupied it until July 2 when their forces retreated. © Alexey Furman/Getty Images

DPR Militia Member Convicted of War Crime

Accused man already found guilty of fighting for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.

Tuesday, 24 October, 2023

A 33-year-old Ukrainian man, previously convicted of offences including high treason and participation in a terrorist organisation, has been found guilty of violating the laws and customs of war during the occupation of a village in the Kherson region.

Pavlo Hrebenyuk, a resident of the Russian-occupied city of Zhdanivka in the Donetsk region, was serving in the rifle platoon of the People's Militia of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) at the time of the offence. 

According to the Ukrainian investigation, at the end of March last year, the accused was in the village of Ivanivka in the Visokopillya area of the occupied Kherson region. This village, with a population of 800, is located in the north, not far from the administrative border with the Dnipropetrovsk region. 

Russian troops captured Ivanivka last year at the beginning of March and occupied it until July 2 when their forces retreated.

The Saksagan District Court of Kryvyi Rih heard that, on a day in late March, Hrebenyuk saw a civilian in the forest identified in court as Serhii T and ordered him to stop. He pointed a machine gun at Serhii T and threatened to kill him, before opening fire in his direction. Hrebenyuk then deliberately shot the man in the right foot. Serhii T told the court that Hrebenyuk accused him of directing Ukrainian fire against Russian targets. 

Serhii T, a resident of the village for the last 17 years, described how Russian soldiers had robbed locals of property, clothes, food and cars when they first arrived.

After several weeks under occupation, Serhii T and a friend went to the forest to look for food and drinking water, as well as in the hope of finding dry rations left over from when the Russian military had set up camp in the area. There they were apprehended by five Russian soldiers, including Hrebenyuk.

Serhii T identified Hrebenyuk from photographs shown to him by investigators during the pre-trial investigation. 

The victim's friend, who had been with him in the forest, said in court that they had known each other for more than ten years. He explained that his friend, who before the occupation worked on a tractor-harvester, always dressed in civilian clothes, owned no weapons and had not resisted the Russian military. The witness testified that he identified Grebenyuk from a photo as the man who had threatened Serhii T and himself with murder. 

Another witness, a neighbour of the victim, testified that he had heard shots from the forest on the day of the incident. Later that same day, Serhii T’s wife came to his house looking for medicine and reported that her husband had been shot in the leg. The witness also recognised Hrebenyuk as he had previously seen him looking for a car in the village.

Another villager also witnessed this particular incident, telling the court that the accused, wearing a military uniform and carrying a machine gun, had been looking for a car to take to his headquarters.

A month after the incident, Serhii T and his wife were able to leave the village. His injured foot had not healed due to the lack of medicine or proper treatment. 

The victim's son testified in court that, after he had seen photos of Russian soldiers captured in the Kherson region on Facebook, he showed them to his father who recognised the man who shot him in the foot. Serhii T then approached the Ukrainian security service (SBU).

However, Hrebenyuk did not admit his guilt to the court. He related that on February 26 last year, he was called to the personnel department at his work and told that he had to present himself at the military committee  for mobilisation.

After five days of training, he was sent to Rostov, from where he was taken to the Crimea via the Kerch Bridge together with other mobilised people and then onwards to the village of Chornobayivka near Kherson. From there, Hrebenyuk was relocated to the north of the occupied Kherson region.

He said that he was sent first to the village of Pryhirya, where he dug trenches, and then to the village of Kochubeivka, where Russian soldiers were stationed in the basement of a bombed-out school. Then they were taken to the rear on army trucks to an area of forest to accompany Russian transport.

Hrebenyuk surrendered himself as a prisoner on April 7 near the village of Arkhangelske in the Visokopillya community, six kilometers from Ivanivka. He was captured along with three other soldiers. 

The accused claimed that he had never been to the village of Ivanivka, arguing that due to the length of time that had passed it would have been impossible for witnesses to have identified him. Hrebenyuk also insisted that he had not shot anyone.

However, the court decided that the evidence refuted Hrebenyuk's version of events, ruling that his testimony was unreliable and contradictory. 

On October 10, Hrebenyuk was convicted of the war crime of brutal treatment of the civilian population and initially sentenced to 12 years in prison. However, he is likely to serve a longer prison term as he has previous convictions. 

A few months after being captured on July 22 last year, the Galician District Court of Lviv found Hrebenyuk guilty of high treason (Part 1 of Article 111 of the criminal code), participation in a terrorist organisation (Part 1 of Article 258-3 of the criminal code) and activity of an armed formation not provided for by law (Part 2 of Article 260 of the criminal code). Hrebenyuk pleaded guilty and the court sentenced him to 12 years of imprisonment with confiscation of all personal property. 

Based on the totality of crimes, the court sentenced the prisoner to 15 years in prison.

The sentence has not yet entered into force and can be appealed within 30 days.

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