The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine has officially charged Russian militant leader Igor Girkin with war crimes for allegedly ordering the torture and killing of at least three people in April 2014.
The charges, announced on June 16, comes six years after Russia began its war against Ukraine.
Girkin, a notorious Russian militant also known under his nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, was among the leading figures in the Kremlin’s occupation of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region for several months in 2014.
In April 2014, he crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border and occupied Slovyansk, a city of 100,000 people in eastern Ukraine. The battle for Slovyansk was among the first major clashes during the war.
He arrived in Donbas shortly after Russia invaded and occupied Crimea, a Ukrainian region home to over 3 million people. Girkin also played a role in the Russian takeover of the peninsula.
Since 2014, Girkin has been wanted in Ukraine on charges of terrorism. He is also included on the United States and European Union’s sanctions lists.
The new charges against Girkin come less than a month after he gave an interview to Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Gordon during which he admitted to murdering at least four people.
“Four were executed,’ Girkin said in the May 18 interview.
Girkin admitted to taking part in the murder of Volodymyr Rybak, a city council member in the small Donetsk Oblast city of Horlivka who tried to raise the Ukrainian flag over the council building.
“Naturally, Rybak, as a person actively opposing the militia forces, was viewed by me as the enemy,” Girkin said.
He also admitted to issuing a personal order to execute 19-year-old Yuriy Popravka and 25-year-old Yuriy Dyakovsky, who were subsequently tortured, killed and dumped in a river near the city of Slovyansk in April 2014.
“I do not deny my responsibility for issuing orders to exterminate the enemy,” Girkin said.
The interview, which triggered an uproar against journalist Gordon in Ukraine, was likely used to draw up the charges against Girkin.
Following its broadcast, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that the recorded material could be used in the criminal case against the militant.
“The Russian national stated concrete facts about committing extremely serious crimes. And beyond all doubt, this information will be carefully analyzed by prosecutors and investigators,” said Gyunduz Mamedov, deputy prosecutor general, on May 18.
According to the June 16 statement by the Prosecutor General’s Office, Girkin stands accused of ordering the murders of three people, which took place between April 17 and April 19, 2014.
Rybak, Popravka and Dyakovskiy all went missing on April 17, 2014 and were found dead in a river on April 19, 2014.
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