Smoke rises from the site of a Russian artillery attack on a civilian village in Mykolaiv oblast, Ukraine. The Russians did not advance deep into the Mykolaiv region, but Novokyivka remained under occupation for eight and-a-half months until on November 11, Ukrainian forces liberated the village.
Smoke rises from the site of a Russian artillery attack on a civilian village in Mykolaiv oblast, Ukraine. The Russians did not advance deep into the Mykolaiv region, but Novokyivka remained under occupation for eight and-a-half months until on November 11, Ukrainian forces liberated the village. © Carl Court/Getty Images

Two Russian Soldiers on Trial for Torturing Civilians

Seven villagers were taken to a graveyard where they were beaten and subjected to mock executions.

Tuesday, 6 February, 2024

Two Russian soldiers are to be tried for kidnapping and torture during the occupation of Novokiivka, a village in the southern region of Mykolaiv, in spring 2022.

The Snigurivskii district court in the Mykolaiv region is hearing the case against Ruslan Akhmetov and Azret Batdiev, who are accused of violating the laws and customs of war as a result of a prior conspiracy by a group of persons under Part 2 of Article 28 and Part 1 of Article 438 of Ukraine’s criminal code. According to the investigation, a local resident helped the two servicemen to identify villagers with an active pro-Ukrainian position.

In early March 2022, Russian forces occupied Novokiivka, a village of about 600 people on the border between the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions. Kherson had already fallen under the control of Russian forces, which had then moved westward towards Mykolaiv. The region was deemed strategically important for paving the way to the southern port of Odesa.

The Russians did not advance deep into the Mykolaiv region, but Novokyivka remained under occupation for eight and-a-half months until on November 11, Ukrainian forces liberated the village.

The 1st motorised rifle company of the 1st motorised rifle battalion of the 126th Separate Guards of the Horlivska Order was among the units that controlled the village. 

Batdiev, a 22-year-old originally from Russia’s Karachev-Cherkessia Republic, served as the assistant shooter of a grenade launcher, and Akhmetov, a 41-year-old from the Stavropol territory, as a paramedic. Their unit is stationed in Perevalne, a village in the occupied region of Crimea.

According to the investigation, in July 2022, due to water shortages, the two servicemen were looking for a pump in one of the houses. To prevent them from using it, two villagers dismantled and hid it. The Russians started searching for the culprits and were handed a list of residents who could have been involved, although this did not include any addresses.

Hryhoriy D, 62, with whom the Russians had previously established friendly relations, allegedly agreed to help soldiers including Akhmetov and Batdiev. 

Investigators maintain that the pensioner aided the Russians to receive favourable treatment, specifically unimpeded movement through checkpoints and the opportunity to conduct business activities.

The suspicion in absentia against Batdiev and Akhmetov, filed in October 2023, stated that Hryhoriy D invited one of the men from the list to his home to enable Russians to detain him. He then allegedly agreed to show the soldiers where another man lived. 

Batdiev, Akhmetov and their accomplices followed the pensioner’s car in a military truck and detained the second victim at another house. According to investigators, Hryhoriy D also took the soldiers to other houses. 

In total, seven locals were taken to a site near the cemetery, on the outskirts of the village. There, they were lined up, beaten and threatened with death. The soldiers also staged mock executions. 

The pre-trial investigation established that Akhmetov and Batdiev were currently in the occupied part of Kherson region. Neither appeared when summoned; in December 2023, the Central District Court of Mykolaiv granted permission for a special pre-trial investigation.

The accused also did not appear for the first preparatory court session of February 5 and the court set the second for February 15. According to Ukrainian legislation, if the accused does not appear three times, the court can allow the case to be considered in absentia. If found guilty the two soldiers face between eight and twelve years in prison.

The Snigurivskii district court is also processing a case against Hryhoriy D for supporting the Russian soldiers. In July 2023, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) detained him in Mykolaiv prison, where he remains. He is accused of aiding and abetting the violation of the laws and customs of war under Part 5 of article 27, Part 2 of Article 28 and Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code.

In September 2023, the court ruled for the case to be heard and currently investigators are examining the evidence and taking witness testimony.  At the end of December 2023, the court extended the pensioner’s detention until February 17. The accused and his lawyer asked the court to reduce the preventive measure to house arrest. 

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