Four Russian Soldiers Sentenced for Yagidne Crimes

Some 20 servicemen have already been identified and suspected of mistreating villagers.

Four Russian Soldiers Sentenced for Yagidne Crimes

Some 20 servicemen have already been identified and suspected of mistreating villagers.

A woman looks at her home, destroyed during battles at the start of Russia's full scale invasion, in Yagidne village on October 30, 2022 in Chernihiv, Ukraine.
A woman looks at her home, destroyed during battles at the start of Russia's full scale invasion, in Yagidne village on October 30, 2022 in Chernihiv, Ukraine. © Ed Ram/Getty Images
Tuesday, 31 January, 2023

A court in Chernihiv has convicted four Russian soldiers for the brutal treatment of civilians during the occupation of the village of Yagidne in March.

IWPR previously reported on the indictment of 26-year-old private Ivan Oorzhak, 35-year-old sergeant Chayan Chinan and 28-year-old corporal Kezhik-ool Shaktar-ool for violating the laws and customs of war. All are natives of the Republic of Tuva of the Russian Federation, serving in the military unit in the city of Kyzyl, and were tried in absentia.

The case involved incidents that occurred on March 3 and 17 in Yagidne. According to the investigation, the three men broke into private houses and directed bursts of automatic gunfire into cellars where people were hiding.

They forced men to undress in the yard in temperatures of 1°C and beat them as they searched for nationalistic tattoos. During the search, a mobile phone was found in the pocket of one villager, after which he was severely beaten.

The men were forced into a cellar and kept under lock and key for two days, after which they were taken to the basement of Yagidne's school where the entire civilian population of the village was imprisoned.

Oorzhak, Chinan and Shaktar-ool were sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, the maximum possible term under Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code on the violation of the laws and customs of war. Representatives of the 15 victims came to court and gave evidence, asking for the most severe punishment possible. 

One witness, a woman who had sought refuge from the March 3 shelling in the basement with her husband, young son and mother-in-law, told the court that she recognised the defendants from a photo she had been shown during the investigation. 

After the Russian soldiers forced them out of the cellar, demanded their mobile phones and searched them, her husband was kicked in the head and torso in front of the child. The accused locked them in the cold and dark cellar with a minimal supply of food. The woman's husband said that after the Russians found two mobile phones in his possession, they beat him badly. After the deoccupation of the village, he consulted a doctor and was diagnosed with concussion, a cranial injury, bruises and contusions.

Witnesses from two other families told the court that the accused had been drunk. On March 17, when people were hiding in the basement, they shot at the door, demanded it be opened, and shot again into the middle of the cellar. 

The accused shouted for everyone to leave, threatening to throw a grenade into the basement. 

When people went outside, one of the accused began to drag one of the young women back to the basement to rape her. A female relative intervened, telling him that the young woman was pregnant. Then, according to the witness testimony, the Russian pushed the woman away and dragged another to the basement. 

Meanwhile, the defendants beat the men, forced them to their knees and aimed machine guns at them.

One of the men told the court that the Russian soldiers said they would strip them naked and shoot them. The children fell to their knees, cried and begged the soldiers not to kill them or their relatives.

According to the witnesses, other Russian soldiers – one woman described them as “of Slavic appearance” came running at the sound of shots and took the accused away. 

One victim said that they had been convinced this intervention prevented the accused from raping the women and shooting the men.

According to the investigation, Oorzhak, Chinan and Shaktar-ool, together with other Russian military personnel, left the territory of Ukraine in the area of Senkivka settlement of Chernihiv region on April 2 and are currently in the territory of the Russian Federation. 

The Chernihiv district court sentenced their colleague, 28-year-old sergeant Kuular Sholban, to ten years in prison. He is also a native of the Tuva republic and the mortar commander of the same military unit as Oorzhak, Chinan and Shaktar-ool. 

According to the investigation, on March 3, he and other Russian soldiers broke into one of the houses in Yagidne and forced four people into the cellar, among them a seven-year-old girl. 

One of the victims said that he had moved with his wife and daughter into his father-in-law's house a few days earlier. On March 3, he saw Russian army vehicles approaching and heard shots fired. 

When the Russian soldiers entered the yard, the family was pushed into the cellar and Sholban stood guard at the entrance with a machine gun.

In the evening, the man asked Sholban if he could get some cigarettes from his home. In response, Sholban prevented him from leaving the cellar, pointed a machine gun at his face and threatened to shoot him. The victim was afraid that he, his wife and daughter would be shot. 

The man was then taken into the house and questioned as to whether he had served in the military.

The victim told the court that during the entire time he was in the cellar, he was allowed out twice. His father-in-law was let out to feed the chickens and the dog. They were not allowed to cook any food and had to use a bucket as a toilet. 

He said that his seven-year-old daughter still had nightmares as a result of the experience.

After the deoccupation of Yagidne, Ukrainian investigators found Russian documents detailing the commanders’ observations, including pages relating to all four accused and their photographs. According to the materials of both cases, the victims recognised the accused from their photo.

Each of the accused was appointed a state attorney to provide free legal assistance. They participated in the questioning of witnesses and the examination of evidence, and spoke in debates.

The sentences against the Russians will enter into force after the deadline for filing an appeal has expired, 30 days from the moment the verdicts are announced. The term of serving the sentence for all four convicted will be counted from the day of their actual detention.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian investigators announced suspicions of violating the laws and customs of war for crimes in Yagidne against two more Russian soldiers. Some 20 Russians have already been identified and suspected of mistreating villagers in Yagidne.

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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