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War and justice

Deportation of the Crimeans and bombing of Kharkiv: what sentences have been received by those charged with war crimes

In March, 86 verdicts appeared in the Adjudication Record in cases of offenses against peace, safety of mankind, and international law and order.  The convicted persons include both Russian military and Ukrainian citizens.  In the cases concerning the occupants, the trials were in absentia. MIHR tells about the outcome of the resonant cases that we followed.

12 years of imprisonment for cruel treatment of civilians

On March 8, Chernihiv District Court reached a verdict for Burun-Chyrhal Mahaval. He is a Russian military who served as a mortar commander in the 55th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade of the RF stationed in the Republic of Tyva. 

Burun-Chyrhal Mahaval has received a sentence in absentia, he is wanted.  Screenshot from the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

In March of 2022, the servicemen from the said brigade occupied the Village of Yahidne in the Chernihiv Region. The wronged persons in the case are 19-year-old Lilia Diohtiar and 21-year-old David Kyslyi. On March 4, the guy and the girl were together with their relatives in the house of David’s parents when the Russian military broke into the house and locked them in the basement.

According to the complainant’s testimony, other military, including the accused person, came on the same day. He made the complainant kneel and threatened him with a submachine gun. As the girl told the court, at that moment, she had said goodbye to life.

Burun-Chyrhal Mahaval took away the girl’s iPhone, the guy’s MacBook, and US $11,000 of his savings.

On the next day, the complainants were transferred to a school basement.  According to the girl, the same military found her in the basement and demanded the password to unlock her phone, accusing the girl of helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He gave Lilia Diohtiar her own phone, but she locked it permanently.

After the de-occupation of the village, the girl, using iCloud, found that the stolen gadget is geo-located in the Republic of Tyva. The other complainant gave the same evidence and confirmed that he heard the threats to execute by shooting.

The investigators who were documenting the crimes of Russians at the places where they had stayed found “The Psychological and Pedagogical Monitoring Daybook by the Commander of the 2nd Mortar Platoon, Mortar Battery 2, MIB(g), of the Military Unit”. The document contained the photo and personal data of the offender. The complainants recognized him.

During the trial, they also examined the email correspondence of Lilia Diohtiar and the letter about the geo-location of the stolen gadget determined at an address in the Republic of Tyva, where, as the investigation found out, the offender resides.

The court has adjudged Burun-Chyrhal Mahaval guilty of cruel treatment of civilians, which is a violation of the laws and customs of war.  He has been awarded a punishment of 12 years of imprisonment, which he shall serve after he is detained.  According to the investigation, he currently stays in the RF.

Before, the MIHR told about tortures of civilians in Yahidne and about verdicts to other servicemen of the said brigade. 

He bombed Kharkiv Region and asked Ukrainians to forgive him  

On March 2, the Dzerzhynskyi District Court of Kharkiv sentenced Maxim Krishtop, Deputy Commander of Military Unit 45117 of the 47th Bomber Aviation Regiment, the 6th Army of the Air Forces and Air Defense, the Western Military District of the RF, to 12 years of imprisonment for violation of the laws and customs of war.

In March of 2022, Lt. Col. Krishtop received an order to destroy a TV tower in Kharkiv.  On March 6, two Su-34 planes, one of which carried Krishtop, flew from Baltimor Airfield in Voronezh, RF. They bombed the radio & TV transmitting station of Kharkiv with eight FAB-500 aviation bombs with a total estimated yield of 2,400 tons.

Maxim Krishtop at the press conference.  Screenshot of the broadcast recording

The Russian pilot knew that the TV tower was a civilian object. On the same day, Krishtop’s plane was shot down by the National Guard, and he was ejected. After that, the man was detained.

At the press conference arranged by the SBU, Krishtop stated that during March, he was fulfilling the orders to bomb civilian targets in Kharkiv Region, which he regrets. He asked Ukrainians to forgive him for his actions.

Krishtop pleaded guilty at the trial. At the request of his lawyer, the court heard the testimony of the accused in private. By agreement of the parties, the evidence that was not disputed was not examined during the session.  

The court also examined the materials on the damage of over a million hryvnias inflicted upon the communications operator companies.

Wreckage of Krishtop’s aircraft.  Photo from the Facebook page of Sergiy Bolvinov

In the end, the court found Krishtop guilty of the violation of the laws and customs of war perpetrated in collusion and sustained the companies’ civil claims for damages.

On March 6, 2023, the same court granted the motion of the General Prosecutor’s Office to discharge the Russian pilot from serving his sentence.  The ground is the resolution of the Coordination Headquarters on the Treatment of Prisoners of War to include Krishtop in the list for exchange.  The court allowed transferring the pilot to the Main Intelligence Department for the further procedure of exchange.

First verdict for deportation from the Crimea

On March 30, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea informed that Darnytskyi District Court of Kyiv sentenced in absentia Larysa Lykhachova, the so-called “judge” of Armiansk City Court, to 10 years in prison for violation of the laws and customs of war.

After the occupation of the peninsula, Lykhachova took part in the implementation of the occupying state’s criminal policy aimed at the change of the Crimean population’s demographic composition. In particular, she issued fake determinations to expel Ukrainian citizens from the temporarily occupied peninsula. According to the case, there were at least ten such rulings that imposed administrative penalties on and expel the citizens.

Larysa Lykhachova has received a sentence in absentia.  Screenshot from The Russian Judges website

Ukrainians are not to obtain any permits to reside in the temporarily occupied Crimea. Therefore, Lykhachova’s actions violate Article 49 of the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which forbids, irrespective of the motives, forced individual or mass relocation or deportation of persons from an occupied territory.

According to the Judicial Power website, Sinaver Kadyrov, an activist of the Crimean Tatars’ National Movement, is indicated as the victim in the case.  In 2015, Radio Liberty reported that during their departure from Crimea, he, together with other members of the Mejlis, was detained by Russian border guards and sent to court, where “judge” Lykhachova ruled to expel him.

In his comment to MIHR, Sinaver Kadyrov himself said that the above decision of Lykhachova resulted in a dramatic change in his life. He believes the verdict to the “judge” is fair, although he has a comment thereon.

“Yes, justice has been done, but if the proceedings had taken place earlier, on the heels of events, then even the judgment by default would have had a stronger impact on the Ukrainian citizens who remain in the temporarily occupied Crimea and collaborate with the invaders perpetrating international crimes. That also concerns Luhansk and Donetsk Regions. Because impunity generates new crimes,” says Sinaver Kadyrov. He adds that the verdict in absentia only affects Lykhachova and other Crimean “judges” in terms of moral and psychological pressure, as it cannot be accomplished.  

It should be noted that Lykhachova has received punishment under Article 438, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the laws and customs of war), whilst in 2015, Anatoliy Matios, then Deputy to the General Prosecutor, stated that suspicion of treason was declared to the judges who had moved to the side of the invader in the Crimea, and that included Lykhachova. The court has yet to pass a sentence under such an article.


Anastasia Zubova, Journalist, MIHR

Translated from Ukrainian by Olena Balatska


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