Russian Tried in Absentia for Killing Two Unarmed Ukrainian Soldiers

Found sheltering in a private house, the men were searched and summarily executed.

Russian Tried in Absentia for Killing Two Unarmed Ukrainian Soldiers

Found sheltering in a private house, the men were searched and summarily executed.

Anatoly Miroshnyk, a resident of the village of Sloboda, points to the shed in which the Russians allegedly shot Ukrainian soldiers.
Anatoly Miroshnyk, a resident of the village of Sloboda, points to the shed in which the Russians allegedly shot Ukrainian soldiers. © Slidstvo.Info
Tuesday, 4 July, 2023

A Russian serviceman faces trial in absentia for allegedly killing two unarmed Ukrainian soldiers who were not participating in hostilities and had the right of protection as prisoners of war. 

Arzhaan Eresolovich Sat, a soldier of the 55th separate motorised rifle tactical brigade of Russia’s ground forces, was summoned to the district court of the Chernihiv region on June 22. According to the investigation, the 37-year-old from Russia's eastern Republic of Tuva committed the crime on March 9 during his brigade’s occupation of the village of Sloboda.

Sloboda is located about 20 kilometres south of Chernihiv and was occupied between March 5 and March 30, 2022. The Russian army had tried but failed to take control of the north-eastern city of Chernihiv, close to both the Belarus and Russian borders, and use it as a launchpad to attack the capital Kyiv. Nonetheless, Russian forces managed to occupy Sloboda and Yagidne, a village about ten kilometres away. 

According to the investigation, on the evening of March 9, Sat, together with unidentified accomplices, broke into a private house where eight people were hiding in the cellar: four adult civilians, two minors and two Ukrainian servicemen.

The investigation found that the two Ukrainian soldiers, 22-year-old Oleh Snizhko and 30-year-old Mykhailo Loshak, had left their ranks on March 5 when their unit was dispersed during a mission in Sloboda. The two then stopped participating in hostilities and were unarmed. Sloboda resident Anatoly Miroshnyk gave them shelter.

Sat and his accomplices took the men out of the cellar and into the street, searched their belongings and examined their bodies, stripping them to their underwear.

During the inspection, the accused noticed that one of the Ukrainian soldiers had military green underpants. Sat aimed a machine gun at the man and, threatening to kill him, forced him to confess his affiliation with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Then, with the other Russian soldiers, Sat ordered him and the other soldier to go to the nearby barn, where he shot them. Both died immediately of gunshot wounds to the chest with damage to the heart, lungs and ribs. One victim was shot once and the other, twice.  

The prosecutor's office stated that the crime violated the requirements of the Geneva Convention for the Protection of the Civilian Population in Time of War and the articles of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The Ukrainian servicemen were not taking part in hostilities and, in accordance with the norms of international humanitarian law, had the right to protection. 

Miroshnyk told Ukrainian outlet Slidstvo.Info that he had given the soldiers civilian clothes and hidden them in his house. The soldiers lived with the man for four days, sheltering in the cellar together with him, his wife, children and grandchildren. 

Then on March 9, five or six Russian soldiers broke into the cellar and ordered all the men to go outside, the witness said.

“When they undressed [as ordered by the Russian military], Oleh [Snizhko] or the other [Ukrainian soldier] did not take off his army underwear. And they [the Russians] immediately asked him where he had got it from. He said that the volunteers had given it to him,” Miroshnyk was reported as saying.

“Later, they took my son and my to the house, and the boys [the Ukrainian soldiers] were left behind. After 10-15 minutes, maybe five, I don't remember, it was such a stress... I could hear automatic weapons shots nearby,” Miroshnyk told reporters.

On March 30, Ukrainian forces regained control of Sloboda. Slidstvo.Info reported that the following day Miroshnyk’s son found the bodies of the dead soldiers near the barn. 

In November 2022, Sat was charged in absentia with a violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder committed by a group of persons based on a prior conspiracy (Part 2 of Article 28, Part 2 of Article 438 of the criminal code). The felony falls in the category of serious crimes; Sat faces between ten to 15 years in prison or life imprisonment. 

During the pre-trial investigation, the Russian serviceman did not appear when summoned by subpoenas. A defence attorney from the Centre for Free Legal Aid was appointed to represent him at the expense of the Ukrainian state. 

In December 2022, Sat was declared wanted and, in the same month, the court granted permission to carry out a special pre-trial investigation into the case. In January 2023, the investigating judge of Chernihiv’s Desnyan district court decided on a preventive detention measure in absentia. 

On May 30, the Chernihiv district court received the indictment and began the procedure of summoning the accused to a preliminary hearing. After three non-appearances, the court will be able to make a decision on a special trial of the case in the absence of the accused. 

Relatives of Snizhko and Loshakthe are the victims in the proceedings. 

According to the court register the case files contain protocols for presenting photographs to witnesses for identification purposes and protocols for conducting an investigative experiment. 

During the first preparatory court session of June 22, during the first preliminary court hearing, Sat's defence attorney filed a motion for the case to be considered by a panel of judges. 

The request was granted because the criminal procedure code states that criminal proceedings for felonies punishable by life imprisonment are conducted collegially by a three-judge court. The case has been transferred for determination to a panel of judges, which will further hear it on its merits after deciding on a special trial in absentia. 

According to the investigation, the accused is hiding from Ukrainian law enforcement agencies in the territory of the Russian Federation.

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