Russia sentences four Ukrainian POWs to life imprisonment for defending Mariupol


Halya Coynash

May 27, 2024

Russia is using torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war in its attempt to rewrite the facts about its invasion of Mariupol and the crimes it committed


The four POWs in a released video, with Oleh Kolmachevsky on the far right

Four Ukrainian prisoners of war have been sentenced to life imprisonment by a fake occupation ‘court’ with the ‘verdicts’ once again only reported after the alleged ‘trial’ had ended.  The cynical nature of the charges against Ukrainians defending their country is only compounded by the fact that at least three of the POWs had already been ‘tried’ and sentenced to life or 30 years by the very same kangaroo court on virtually identical charges.

Reports in Russia’s state-controlled media on 24 May cite Russia’s ‘Investigative Committee’ and / or public prosecutor’s office, with it unclear even whether the sentences were handed down that day, let alone any other details about the supposed ‘trial’.  The four members of Ukraine’s Armed Forces are described, in what seems an evident attempt to ignore their prisoner of war protected status, as “fighters” of the Zaporizhzhia Battalion (the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ 27th Motorized Infantry Battalion).  Oleh Kolmychevsky, together with Dmytro Dobrovolsky; Oleksandr Romashin; and the Battalion’s driver Vladyslav Kulyk were accused of an attempt on the lives of two civilians, with this purportedly an act “committed by an organized group, out of motives of political or ideological enmity (Article 30 § 3 and three parts of  Article 105 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code).

The lies are quite breathtaking, with it claimed that the four POWs, as well as other Ukrainian soldiers “obstructed the free exit of the civilian population from the city”.  Russia’s blockade of Mariupol was reported in the international media on a daily basis, with the Russians’ refusal to allow safe humanitarian corridors for evacuation from the city and aid into it widely condemned.  The reports also falsely claim that from 24 February till 12 April 2022, when the POWs were seized from the Ilyich Factory, they were in the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’.

Supposedly “on one of the days” the Ukrainian soldiers discovered “three civilians”, with Kolmychevsky having informed the commander of the Battalion Vasyl Tkachuk of this and been ordered by the latter to shoot them. Each of the four men were supposed to have fired at least five aimed shots from Kalashnikov rifles, yet killed only one of the three men, with the other two surviving. “having hidden in a safe place”.

The Investigative Committee reports that “Kolmychevsky, Dobrovolsky, Kulyk and Tkachuk were convicted of the murder of a civilian previously”.

The most telling, and chilling, part of the report is the assertion that the four prisoners of war “fully admitted guilt”.

As reported earlier, if Russia had any proof that Ukrainian POWs had deliberately shot civilians, it would not be hiding behind an unrecognized ‘high court’ in the equally illegitimate ‘Donetsk people’s republic’.  Russia is illegally preventing representatives of, for example, the UN Monitoring Mission and the International Committee of the Red Cross, from seeing prisoners of war.  It is also ensuring that any such ‘trials’, even if not officially behind closed doors, take place in secret, with no observance of the men’s right to a fair trial.  International observers have all condemned Russia’s systematic torture of prisoners of war, and there is every reason to believe that the videoed ‘confessions’ posted on the Investigative Committee’s website are all extracted through torture of men held incommunicado and without any access to lawyers.

Russia’s state enforcement bodies and propaganda media reported back on 1 November 2023 that 51-year-old Oleh Kolmychevsky had been sentenced to life imprisonment, while Dmytro Dobrovolsky and Oleksandr Romashin, both of whom are just 22, had received 30-year sentences.   The three were charged with the same charge under Article 105 § 2 of killings, carried out by an organized group out of motives of political and ideological hatred’.  Russia’s claim that Ukrainian defenders were ‘guilty’ of Russia’s war crimes against civilians did not stop here.  On that earlier occasion, the men were also charged with “cruel treatment of the civilian population on occupied territory’ (Article 386 § 1) with Russia claiming that Mariupol had been ‘occupied territory’ before Russia’s full-scale invasion and seizure of control.  Back in November, it was asserted that, over the same period from 24 February to 12 April 2022, Dobrovolsky and Romashin had, on Kolmychevsky’s orders, detained and shot civilians noticed in the vicinity of their military position.  They had, supposedly, killed seven male civilians and one female, with the report asserting that none had presented any danger and had been unarmed.

Russia is very clearly seeking to rewrite history with these prosecutions of Ukrainian defenders for the crimes that the world saw Russia committing in Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities it invaded.  Such ‘convictions’, and the videoed ‘confessions’ are in large part for propaganda purposes.  The only proof that the alleged ‘trial’ of the four POWs, reported on 24 May, even took place derives from enforcement body reports, post-fact and propaganda videos. .  What does seem tragically clear is that all four Ukrainian prisoners of war, whose protected status Russia  has committed itself to observe, are facing torture in Russian captivity and horrific violations of their most fundamental rights.