In response to the Investigative Committee of Russia’s announcement that three Ukrainian prisoners of war, including human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, have been “convicted” of war crimes by “supreme courts” in Russia-occupied Luhansk and Donetsk and given long prison sentences, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“The so-called ‘convictions’ of Maksym Butkevych, Viktor Pohozei and Vladyslav Shel arising from these sham trials should be considered null and void.
The so-called ‘convictions’ of Maksym Butkevych, Viktor Pohozei and Vladyslav Shel arising from these sham trials should be considered null and void.Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Amnesty International
“By handing ‘justice’ over matters such as alleged war crimes to an unrecognized judiciary in Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, Russia itself is violating international humanitarian law by denying Ukrainian prisoners of war their fundamental right to a fair trial. Wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the right to a fair and regular trial constitutes a war crime.
“It is abundantly clear that these show trials are nothing but an act of ruthless retribution against Ukrainian prisoners of war. Russia must fully respect the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war and end such sham trials and other such violations.”
Russia must fully respect the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war and end such sham trials and other such violations.Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Amnesty International
On 10 March, the Investigative Committee of Russia, the state agency responsible for investigating serious crimes, announced that three Ukrainian prisoners of war, Viktor Pohozei, Maksym Butkevych and Vladyslav Shel, had been found guilty of war-related crimes under the Russian Criminal Code.
Viktor Pohozei, Maksym Butkevych and Vladyslav Shel were sentenced to 8.5, 13 and 18.5 years of imprisonment respectively. The Investigative Committee of Russia claimed that as members of the Ukrainian armed forces, they had acted in violation of the Geneva conventions, by deliberately targeting civilians and, in some cases, causing their injuries.
Maksym Butkevych, a well-known Ukrainian journalist and prominent human rights defender, volunteered for the Ukrainian armed forces in March 2022, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In July 2022, a video was posted on pro-Russian social media where he was seen speaking on camera about his and his unit’s captivity. Viktor Pohozei and Vladyslav Shel have also been in Russian captivity since 2022.
In a brazen violation of fair trial rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war, in July 2022, Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, announced that Russian authorities had enacted more than 1,300 criminal investigations against hundreds of Ukrainian nationals, including at least 220 suspected of committing “crimes against the peace and security of humanity,” and added that 92 members of the Ukrainian forces had already been charged. This came after a separatist “court” in Russia-occupied Donetsk ordered in June the death of two captured British nationals and a captured Moroccan national (who were later released as part of a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia).