Russian prisoner of war Nikolay Kartashev stands in Irpinsky City Court of the Kyiv region on May 9. The 22-year-old paratrooper is accused of the killing of a supermarket security guard in Bucha in March 2022.
Russian prisoner of war Nikolay Kartashev stands in Irpinsky City Court of the Kyiv region on May 9. The 22-year-old paratrooper is accused of the killing of a supermarket security guard in Bucha in March 2022. © I. Domashchenko

Murder Case Returns to Court After Procedural Dispute

Paratrooper accused of killing a supermarket security guard together with four accomplices.

Tuesday, 28 May, 2024

The Irpinsky city court of the Kyiv region is considering again the indictment against Nikolay Kartashev, a Russian prisoner of war accused of murder in Bucha, a town outside the Ukrainian capital.  

The 22-year-old paratrooper from Pskov, a city close to Russia’s border with Estonia, was captured in the Kharkiv region in February 2023. A procedural dispute and an appeal by the prosecutor arose after the first preparatory meeting in late 2023, but the court of appeal decided to send the case back to the court in Irpin.  On May 9 the court held a new preparatory hearing during which neither the prosecutor nor the defence attorney raised motions. 

On February 27, 2022 senior gunner Kartashev, together with four other Russian soldiers, killed 25-year-old Valery K, an unarmed guard of a local supermarket who was wearing his work black uniform.  

According to the investigation, the group fired with Kalashnikov assault rifles on the order of their commander, 25-year-old Vadym Tsvetkov, to shoot all people in black clothes. The prosecutor stated that this violates the principle of distinction of international humanitarian law because a large number of civilians could wear black clothes. 

The other soldiers were identified as deputy platoon commander, 25-year-old Denis Monakhov, the loader, 19-year-old Artem Derkach, the commander of a self-propelled artillery gun, 26-year-old Dmitrii Antonikov, and senior scout-rangefinder, 19-year-old Ruslan Gorshkov.   

Artem Galkin, the attorney assigned to the defendant from the Free Legal Aid Centre, said he had no objections to bring the case to trial. Galkin raised objections in November 2023, which meant that the case was sent to the court of appeal, but then rejected in that forum. 

Kartashev told the court that he was born in Russia’s Rostov region, lives in the city of Novoshakhtinsk, is a citizen of the Russian Federation and has a special secondary education. He is single and has no children. He served under contract in the 76th Division of the 234th Regiment of Airborne Forces as a senior gunner of a self-propelled artillery installation. He has the rank of corporal. Kartashev communicated with the court with the help of an interpreter, but also understands Ukrainian. 

“Accused, have you not been brought to criminal liability before?” asked Judge Yana Shestopalova who presided the collegium. 

“In Ukraine?” Kartashev asked in response. 

“In general,” replied Shestopalova. 

“Yes,” said the paratrooper. 

“In Russia?” the judge continued. 

“Yes,” Kartashev said. 

“[Under[ which article?” Judge Odaryuk asked. 

“Arbitrary desertion of a military unit,” replied the defendant [under Article 337 of the Russian Federation’s criminal code].  

“When?” continued Odaryuk. 

“In October 2022,” replied the accused 

“Did you have a sentence? [If so] What is the punishment?” asked the judge. 

“One year, conditionally,” he responded. 

“And you were sent to continue to serve?” continued the judge. 

“Yes,” Kartashev responded. 

The paratrooper said that he had received the indictment for the killing in Bucha translated into Russian and that he understood what he was being accused of. He did not object to the appointment of the case for consideration in court. 

“Do you object to the court hearings being held openly?” Shestopalova asked the defendant. 

“It'd be better behind closed doors,” he answered. 

The court clarified that in Ukraine hearings are public and closed trials require specific reasons; it added that, if there is a justification, sessions may be kept closed partially during the questioning of the accused. 

The defence attorney stated that he would convene with the accused on that matter and report back at the next session for the court to decide whether there were grounds to grant it.  

The case has only witnesses because the deceased security guard has no close relatives who could be recognised as victims. The judges decided to bring the case forward to trial: the court is reconvening on June 24 to read the indictment and decide the procedure for examining the evidence. Due to the particular severity of the crime, the case will be considered by a panel of three judges.  

If found guilty of violating the laws and customs of war under Part 2 of Article 438 of the criminal code Kartashev faces between ten to 15 years or life imprisonment. 

The Irpin court is also hearing the case against the other four Russians implicated in the murder of the security guard – Tsvetkov, Monakhov, Derkach, Antonnikov and Gorshkov. A special trial in absentia has not been scheduled yet as the court requested from the prosecution updated information on the accused’s whereabouts. The court may decide to combine Kartashev's case and the absentee case of other Russian soldiers into one single procedure.  

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