A car formerly used by Russian troops sits damaged on May 15, 2022 in Tsyrkuny, Ukraine. Nine Russian soldiers have been indicted for the war crime of large-scale theft of property with breaking into a home in the village, about 25 kilometres from the Russian border
A car formerly used by Russian troops sits damaged on May 15, 2022 in Tsyrkuny, Ukraine. Nine Russian soldiers have been indicted for the war crime of large-scale theft of property with breaking into a home in the village, about 25 kilometres from the Russian border © John Moore/Getty Images

Nine Russian Soldiers to be Tried in Kharkiv for Looting

The servicemen reportedly photographed and filmed themselves with stolen property worth nearly 10,000 US dollars.

Tuesday, 6 June, 2023

Nine Russian soldiers have been indicted for the war crime of large-scale theft of property with breaking into a home, based on a prior conspiracy by a group of persons. Key to the indictment was evidence they themselves provided, after footage they took with devices allegedly stolen from the house in a village north of Kharkiv city was uploaded to the owner’s Google cloud.

The district court of the Kharkiv region received an indictment in the case of nine servicemen: Andrey Shipov21, from Russia’s western region of Belgorod; Vladislav Barvit, 28, from the southwestern Voronezh region; Ryshat Husainov, 23, from the republic of Bashkortostan; Vladislav Pryvalov, 23, from Chelyabinsk, a city south of Yekaterinburg; Vitaliy Nazarov, 35, from the southeastern Saratov region, Maxim Veshnyakov, 26, from the northwestern region of Arkhangelsk; Ruslan Shekhmametyev,27, from the republic of Mordovia; Vladislav Vorobyov, 27, from the Chita region, near the border with Mongolia, and Mykola Zheleznov, 29, from the Nizhny Novgorod region. 

If convicted of violating the laws and customs of war (Part 2 of Article 28, Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code), the servicemen face between eight and 12 years in prison.

On February 24, 2022, Russian forces crossed into Ukraine from the Belgorod to the Kharkiv region, and occupied Tsyrkuny, about 25 kilometres from the border. The settlement remained under Russian occupation for 72 days, until Ukraine’s armed forces regained control of it on May 7, 2022. 

Kharkiv’s police investigators found that between March 23 and April 30, 2022, the nine suspects - the pretrial investigation had no details about their affiliation to a specific military unit - broke into a private house in the village. Using a crowbar, sledgehammer and hammer, they smashed the windows, removed the handle from the front door and broke the lock. 

Once inside, they stole property belonging to the owner’s daughter including a TV, a gaming console, a washing machine, two laptops, a printer, an iPhone, a smart watch, three tablets and three bicycles. The value of the stolen items was estimated at 342,000 hryvnias (9,275 US dollars).

The Russian soldiers also entered the garage and stole a 2013 Peugeot car, estimated to be worth 290,000 hryvnias ( 7,850 dollars).

Evidence of the robbery was provided by the accused themselves. The soldiers used the stolen tablets and the smartphone for photo sessions in the rooms and in the yard of the house. In late April the photos and videos were uploaded to the Google cloud linked to the iPhone 8 belonging to the woman, thanks to a programme she had previously configured.

On May 11, 2022, five days after Kyiv regained control of Tsyrkuny, the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration Oleh Synyehubov told Ukrainska Pravda that during the occupation Russian troops “behaved in an extremely inhumane manner, absolutely without principles, without any morals… They took absolutely everything out of the homes, starting with household items, dishes, utensils, washing machines... They simply took it as certain trophies, without even understanding the principle of operation of these devices”.

The case was entered into the Unified Register of Pretrial Investigations in August 2022. On August 20, Serhii Bolvinov, head of the investigative department of the National Police in the Kharkiv region, posted on Facebook details of how the Russian military had incriminated themselves. He did not name them, but stated that most of them had already been identified.

"The racists themselves documented their crimes in the village of Tsyrkuny. The investigative department received an interesting statement from a resident of the region - photos and videos of unknown men in military uniforms, who were drinking and having fun on the territory of her home (she was abroad at the time) began to appear on her storage in Google Photos," he wrote, posting the visuals recorded by the Russians. 

The suspicions were reported to the nine Russians in February 2023. In March, the court authorised their arrest in absentia and on April 4 it also approved a special pre-trial investigation. The case was referred to the court in May.

The preliminary hearing, at first scheduled for May 29, will be held only once the procedure for summoning the accused to court is completed and permission granted for a special trial in absentia. All accused are wanted and, according to the case file, the case has three witnesses.

This is not the first time that Russian suspects have been identified after using equipment they had obtained via theft. 

On March 8, 2023, the district court of the Chernihiv region sentenced in absentia Russian serviceman Magaval Burun-Chirgal to 12 years in prison for violating the laws and customs of war (Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code). 

During the occupation of the village of Yagidne in Chernihiv region, Burun-Chirgal - who was stationed in Kyzil, the capital city of the republic of Tyva - robbed two young Ukrainians. Threatening to kill them, he stole their electronic devices - an iPhone 11 Pro Max, an Apple Macbook Air 13 laptop and 11,000 US dollars. The locator function on the iCloud software service was enabled, allowing the location of the devices to be determined. 

In November 2022, the prosecutor general's office also reported on the case of a Russian soldier who together with his accomplices robbed an apartment in Irpin, a suburb of the capital Kyiv, in March 2022. The serviceman stole gold jewellery and other valuables. While in the apartment, the Russian soldier took a photo using the owners' camera, leaving evidence of the crime at the scene. 

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