On November 2, the Borodyan District Court, in Kyiv region, started the hearing of the case against Russian corporal Radik Hukasyan accused of group shooting a civilian car, killing the driver, and looting a house in Borodyanka in March 2022. The accused joined the hearing via video link from Kyiv's pre-detention centre where he's been detained for over a year.
On November 2, the Borodyan District Court, in Kyiv region, started the hearing of the case against Russian corporal Radik Hukasyan accused of group shooting a civilian car, killing the driver, and looting a house in Borodyanka in March 2022. The accused joined the hearing via video link from Kyiv's pre-detention centre where he's been detained for over a year. © Irina Domashchenko

Russian Corporal Feared Backlash for Him and His Family in Russia

The defendant pleaded guilty to offences allegedly committed during the occupation of Borodyanka in March 2022.

Tuesday, 14 November, 2023

A Russian soldier accused of war crimes has successfully petitioned a Ukrainian court to be allowed to testify in closed session due the possible repercussions for him and his family back home in Russia.

On November 2, Gennadiy Stasenko, the presiding judge of Borodyan District Court, started the hearing of the case against Russian soldier Radik Hukasyan, asking if he pleaded guilty for charges of group shooting a civilian car, killing the driver, and looting a house in Borodyanka in March 2022. 

“Yes,” the 28-year-old corporal responded via video link from the Kyiv pre-detention centre (SIZO) where he is detained.

“On the  two points?” continued the judge, who addressed the accused in Ukrainian through an interpreter.

“Yes,” Hukasyan said. 

“Do you agree to testify in court?” the judge asked.

“Only behind closed doors…It can be bad in Russia... There may be some negative consequences for me and my family,” replied the defendant, who is married and has two children. 

The case concerns crimes committed during the occupation of Borodyanka, a town of 13,000 people about 57 kilometres  north-west of Kyiv, and neighbouring villages. The Borodyanka district court was destroyed by a Russian aerial bomb on February 28, 2022 and judges are conducting trials in another building nearby. 

In March 2022, Russian forces destroyed Borodyansky district court. The court held the hearing against Russian corporal Radik Hukasyan in a statebuilding nearby. © Irina Domashchenko

The corporal stated he was a driver and a mechanic with the rank of corporal serving in the 7th company, 3rd paratrooper battalion, 331st regiment, which is stationed in Kostroma, a city about 350 kilometres north-east of Moscow. 

Hukasyan stated that he had previously taken part in hostilities in Syria and that his regiment was among those who tried to seize the Kyiv region in the first days of Russia’s invasion. 

Serhiy Revelyuk, prosecutor of the General Prosecutor's Office, stated that, if found guilty, the accused faced between ten and 15 years in prison for violating the laws and customs of war as per Part 2 or Article 28 and Part 1 and 2 of Article 438 of the criminal code.

The investigation established that the defendant had spent time in the villages of Zdvizhvka and Lubyanka, about 20 kilometres from Borodyanka. As the Russian military made its way towards the capital Kyiv, its forces dropped unguided aerial bombs on residential areas, prevented locals from clearing rubble, looted shops and shot civilians. Ukraine forces retook the village on April 1, 2022. 

“Do you understand the essence of the accusation?” Judge Stasenko asked.

“Yes,” responded the soldier. 

Hukasyan has been held in captivity for more than a year. In November 2022, he told Ukrainian blogger Volodymyr Zolkin that he had been captured on August 29 during the Ukrainian armed forces’ offensive near the village of Olhine, in the north of the Kherson region. He was on duty at an observation post when he was shot and captured. Two Russian soldiers who were with him died. During the same interview he said that he served in Syria for three months in 2018.

The investigation found that at the beginning of March 2022, Hukasyan, together with soldiers from his regiment, shot at a red civilian car about 15 kilometres from Borodyanka, between the villages of Zdvizhivka and Babintsi. The driver was named as Dmytro B, a 32-year-old resident of the Chernihiv region, who was travelling along a road by forests where Russians had set up positions. 

One of the bullets hit Dmitro B in the head, killing him immediately. The investigation claimed that the order to shoot came from Hukasyan's superior, 33-year-old senior lieutenant and deputy company commander Mykola Simov. 

Simov then reportedly ordered two subordinates to bury the corpse in the forest, about 30 metres from the road. Investigators of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) announced Simov's suspicion in absentia in August 2023.

The second episode of the indictment against Hukasyan dates to March 20, 2022. The investigation stated that the corporal and some of his comrades entered a house in the village of Lubyanka and stole various items. The accused stole a Sony PlayStation gaming console, worth about 2,000 hryvnias (50 US dollars).

In the interview with Zolkin, Hukasyan claimed that he had not committed violence against civilians, but that he knew about the buried body. He added that, according to the Russian military, the body was of a soldier of the Armed Forces, either a scout or a target adjuster.

Oleksandr Chumachenko, Hukasyan’s defence attorney from the Free Legal Aid Centre, asked the court to agree to the defendant’s request of providing his testimony behind closed doors. 

Hukasyan's testimony, he stated, could leak into open sources, jeopardising his family’s security and his personal safety in case of his return to the Russian Federation.

The court agreed and heard his testimony after journalists had left the courtroom. As he listened to the court hearing, the defendant covered his face with his hands and avoided the web camera so as not to be photographed on the monitor screen in the courtroom. 

The next hearing is scheduled for November 28, when the court will listen to witnesses and victims.

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