Tuesday, 20 February ‘24

This week’s overview of key events and links to essential reading.

Tuesday, 20 February ‘24

This week’s overview of key events and links to essential reading.

Tuesday, 20 February, 2024


Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Suspicion Issued Against Russian Generals for Shelling Nuclear Facility

Investigators from Ukraine’s security service (SSU) reported a suspicion in absentia against five Russian officers, including three generals, for ecocide (Part 2 of Article 28, Article 441 of the criminal code) and violation of the laws and customs of war by a group of persons (Part 2 of Article 28, Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code).

The  accused are: Colonel General Oleksandr Zhuravlev, 58, head of Russian armed forces’ western military district; Lieutenant General Oleg Makovetsky, 57, commander of the 6th Army of the Air Force and Air Defence; Lieutenant General Vladyslav Yershov, 48, commander of the 6th Combined Arms Army; Colonel Pavlo Pilyukov, commander of the 45th high-power artillery brigade, and Colonel Yevhen Gerashchenko, commander of the 79th Guards Reactive Artillery Brigade of Novozybkivska.

According to the investigation, the accused ordered the shelling of the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology National Research Centre, which houses the world's only nuclear subcritical facility, the Neutron Source, and a repository of nuclear materials. In 2022, the nuclear facility was hit 74 times by various types of high-explosive weapons. These attacks, investigators stated, were not random and the military leadership was aware of the existence and location of the nuclear installation. The attacks could have caused an ecological catastrophe of a regional scale, affecting about 640,000 people.

UKraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin stated that the suspicion iwass the world’s first criminal prosecution for the crime of ecocide committed in wartime.

Suspicion Issued Against Russian General for Occupation of Kherson Region

SSU investigators reported a suspicion in absentia to Russian Lieutenant General Yakov Rezantsev for waging an aggressive war under Part 2 of Article 28 and Part 2 of Article 437 of the criminal code. Rezantsev leads Russia’s 49th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District. 

According to the SSU, on February 24, 2022, the first day of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the 50-year-old commander personally gave the order to capture the Kherson region. Under his command, Russian troops invaded the region from occupied Crimea, seized the dam of the North Crimean Canal and occupied most of the region. Under his instructions, subordinates conducted air attacks on civilian infrastructure. During the occupation, Rezantsev reportedly organised mass repressions against members of the resistance movement.

It is uncertain whether the commander is alive. On March 25, 2022, media reported that he had been killed during an attack on the airfield in Chornobayivka, a village about 10 kilometres from Kherson.

Five Russian Soldiers Identified for Torture in Sumy

SSU investigators identified five Russian soldiers suspected of abducting and torturing local residents during the occupation of the north-eastern region of Sumy. These suspects are servicemen of the 423rd motorised rifle regiment: senior lieutenant Alexey Ryzhkovich, 30, commander of the 2nd motorised rifle company; lieutenant Maksym Volchek, 28, commander of the 3rd motorised rifle company; sergeant Rustam Irzaev, 28, commander of the 1st motorised rifle battalion; private Petro Ilyushin, 24, combat vehicle deputy commander and private Vadim Mitin, 23, tank commander.

According to the investigation, in February-March 2022 the five soldiers participated in the capture of the Okhtyrka district, including the city of Trostyanets. Then they joined so-called “punitive squads” that kidnapped and tortured local residents. Their victims were taken to a basement where they were beaten and kept without food and water for long periods with the purpose of forcing them to cooperate. The suspects were informed in absentia of the suspicion of violation of the laws and customs of war by a group of persons under Part 2 of Article 28 and Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code.

Russian Officer Issued Suspicion for Keeping Civilians in Freezers

Police investigators reported in absentia a suspicion to Russian serviceman Sergey Veikkolainen for keeping about 100 people in non-working freezers, in violation of the laws and customs of war and cruel treatment of civilians (Part 1 of Article 28 and Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code. The 47-year-old is deputy commander of the Russian Guard’s Ratibor mobile assignment unit, which is stationed in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk region in north-central Siberia.

The investigation found that in March 2022, during the occupation of Hostomel, a city in Kyiv region, the suspect together with his subordinates kept civilians and prisoners of war in non-working freezers in the Antonov aviation enterprise. Intending to force victims to reveal information about Ukraine’s armed forces, the Russians soldiers beat and tortured them with electric shocks, put plastic bags around their heads and subjected them to mock executions shooting. 

Veikkolainen and four other Russian soldiers are currently on trial in Irpin for shooting civilian cars carrying civilians in Hostomel. The case of Russian Major General Vadym Pankov, who commanded the capture of the Antonov airport, is also in the preparatory stage in the same court. He is charged with ordering the brutal treatment of prisoners of war and civilians.

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