Justice Department indicts four Russians for war crimes

 December 7, 2023

The Justice Department announced first-of-its-kind war crimes charges against four Russians accused of torturing an American.

The charges were announced at a press briefing Wednesday where attorney general Merrick Garland shared some details.

The victim was living in a village in southern Ukraine when the Russian military took him into captivity for ten days and brutalized him.

The accused are two Russian officers, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, and two enlisted men known only as Valerii and Nazar.

Russians indicted

This marks the first time ever that the DOJ has filed federal charges for war crimes.

"We allege that as they interrogated him, they tortured him. They beat him, again, with a gun. They punched him in his chest and stomach. They threatened to shoot him. They stripped off his clothes and took pictures. One of their conspirators threatened to sexually assault him," Garland said.

Attorney general Garland touted the charges as an "important step toward accountability for the Russian regime's illegal war in Ukraine."

"We will not forget the atrocities in Ukraine, and we will never stop working to bring those responsible to justice," he continued.

Saving face?

The Hague issued a largely symbolic arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, whom Biden has labeled a war criminal, earlier this year.

Just like Putin, it is not clear how these four Russian soldiers will be brought to the United States to face justice.

The charges could be seen as a face-saving maneuver by the Biden administration as it faces the possibility of having to negotiate with Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

After nearly two years of fighting, a sense of fatalism has begun to creep in as Ukraine continues to struggle to repel the Russian invasion.

Skepticism around Ukraine aid

Republicans in Congress rejected Biden's pleas for more aid to Ukraine this week, a sign of how skepticism of U.S. involvement in the war is rising in Washington and among the general public.

Biden warned, "This cannot wait," speaking with a sense of urgency that he has not shown towards the crisis at America's southern border.

Biden and Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas have been under fire from Republicans for failing to secure the border.

In an ironic statement, Mayorkas said, "There is no higher responsibility of government than to safeguard its people" during Wednesday's photo-op with Garland.

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