Russian Commander Convicted of Kidnapping Unarmed Civilian
The tanker robbed Ukrainian man and held him at gunpoint before victim managed to escape.
A Russian soldier has been sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison for kidnapping an unarmed civilian security guard and holding him hostage for two days.
The Makariv district court of the Kyiv region issued its verdict against Aleksey Khaludorov on April 20 for committing a war crime under Part 1 of Art. 438 of the criminal code of Ukraine for the cruel treatment of civilians.
Khaludorov, a 31-year-old commander of a T-72B tank from the Republic of Buryatia, the city of Ulan-Ude, took the security guard hostage as he fled Ukrainian forces in March 2022.
On February 24, 2022, Khaludorov had crossed the state border of Ukraine in the area of the city of Pripyat, Kyiv region. At the end of February, on a date and time not precisely determined by the investigation, Khaludorov's unit was hit by fire from the armed forces of Ukraine in the area of the village of Kopyliv in Makariv district, located 50 kilometres away from Kyiv city. The tank commander managed to escape and hide in the forest of the Makariv territorial community of Bucha district. Khaludorov then decided to find a way to get to the location of the Russian military.
In the evening of March 2, the tanker broke into a farm in the village of Fasova, Makariv community. This village was not occupied by Russian troops. There, Khaludorov saw 22-year-old Oleksiy, an unarmed security guard in civilian clothes, and took him prisoner before robbing him of his mobile phone and smart watch. Khaludorov forced Oleksiy to hide with him on the farm for two days, keeping him close by at all times and repeatedly threatening to shoot him with his machine gun.
On the evening of March 4, Khaludorov forced Oleksiy to show him a safe way to the village of Kopyliv where he believed he could be reunited with the Russian military. On the way there, the captured civilian managed to escape.
During the pre-trial investigation, Oleksiy described his ordeal. He said that on the evening of March 2, he heard a dog barking and saw an armed man in uniform approaching. He initially thought that he was a Ukrainian soldier.
“I was at a distance of about five metres,” Oleksiy said. “He pointed the weapon at me. Only later did I find out that it was an AK-12 – a modernised Russian assault rifle.”
Khaludorov ordered him at gunpoint to take off his outer clothing and took away his documents and phone. He kept his gun trained on the security guard continually.
Over the next two days, Khaludorov spoke frequently on the phone to his wife and his commander. At one point Oleksiy overheard a conversation with the commander, who ordered the tanker to kill his captive. Although Khaludorov pointed his weapon at the young man, he did not shoot him.
When Khaludorov realised that the Russian military would not come to rescue him, he forced Oleksiy to leave the farm and show him the way to another village, using the navigation app on his phone to guide him. Khaludorov walked behind with his weapon and frequently checked the guard's phone. At one point, Oleksiy managed to shine the phone’s torch into the Russian soldiers’ eyes, temporarily blinding him, and then ran about five km to the village of Fasova.
“The night was dark,” he told investigators. “I understood that I had to run now or I didn't know what would happen to me. I turned up the brightness on the phone, blinded [Khaludorov] when I was giving it back, and ran away... Because of the adrenaline, I didn't hear anything. The distance that we walked in an hour-and-a-half, I ran in around ten minutes, it felt like."
The next day, Oleksiy described his experience to representatives of the Ukrainian intelligence service. He said that the Russian soldier who captured him appeared to be of Buryat nationality and had a machine gun, ammunition, two grenades and a pistol. He did not have a bulletproof vest or a helmet, and therefore Oleksiy presumed that the Russian soldier was a tank driver.
Another witness, the director of the agricultural enterprise where the victim works, told the court that after the start of the full-scale invasion, the farm’s owner asked him to hand the business’ car over to the territorial defence force (TRO). The director asked Oleksiy to prepare the vehicle, but the following day TRO representatives called him from the farm and said that there was no one there.
A few days later, an acquaintance called the witness and said that the guard had been held captive by a Russian serviceman. The director took the victim from the farm and moved him to the village to a safe place. He did not ask him about the details of what had happened so as not to traumatise him. The director described Oleksiy as a kind, decent and honest worker.
The victim identified Khaludorov from a photo police had taken from the tanker’s social media profile. Investigators also examined telephone connections made from the victim's phone, which was used by Khaludorov, and recorded the Russian numbers called. In one recorded electronic file on the telephone, Khaludorov reported that he was on a farm in the village of Fasova and had captured a guard.
The court also watched video from the farm's surveillance cameras which showed the two men walking through the territory of the agricultural enterprise. The Russian soldier could be seen behind the victim, holding in his right hand an object similar to a machine gun, and keeping it constantly pointed at the other man.
Khaludorov’s lawyer now has 30 days to appeal, after which the verdict will become final.
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