The four soldiers were convicted of murdering 12 civilians in Mariupol
Four former members of the Ukrainian armed forces have been sentenced to life in prison for killing a dozen civilians in Mariupol last year, the Supreme Court of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said on Tuesday.
Yevgeny Yakubenko, Dmitry Latyshev, Vladimir Kucherenko, and Sergey Balitsky were found guilty of murder, attempted murder, and abuse of civilians.
“The court sentenced Balitsky, Kucherenko, Latyshev, and Yakubenko to life imprisonment, with the sentence to be served in a special-regime penal colony,” the court said.
Based on the information that emerged during their trial, the four men found themselves at the Ilyich Metallurgical Plant in Mariupol in early March 2022, as Russian troops advanced on the city and surrounded the remaining Ukrainian forces. At one point, they opened fire on 14 civilians inside the plant. Two of the intended victims survived and managed to escape.
Earlier this month, a Donetsk court handed a life sentence to a Ukrainian soldier who opened fire on two cars with refugees, also in Mariupol. He too was found guilty of murder and abuse of civilians, as well as membership in a group motivated by political or ideological hatred.
Many of Mariupol’s residents sympathized with the Donetsk People’s Republic when it declared independence from Ukraine in 2014, rebelling against the nationalist government installed by the US-backed coup in Kiev. Regular troops and “volunteer battalions” loyal to Kiev were quickly dispatched to crush dissent, and Mariupol was placed under the control of ‘Azov’, one of the most notorious neo-Nazi militias.
Russian troops surrounded the city in March 2022 and finalized its liberation in May, capturing the last remaining members of ‘Azov’, who had been surrounded inside the Azovstal steelworks.
Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of being “worse than Hitler” and killing more than 20,000 civilians in the city. In December 2022, the Russian Investigative Committee estimated the number of civilian casualties during the spring fighting to be around 3,000 and blamed the actions of Ukrainian forces. The surviving residents have testified about ‘Azov’ militants using them as human shields and blocking all attempts by civilians to evacuate the combat zone.
December 27, 2023 at 02:54AM