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URGENT: Russia accuses Ukrainian children of sabotage. They face 10 to 20 years in prison

On May 24, 2023, two teenagers, Tihran Ohannisian and Mykyta Khanhanov, both born in 2006, in the temporarily occupied city of Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia region, were charged by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation with accusations of allegedly planning to sabotage the railway. The indictment was preceded by several months of bullying, detention, and torture of the children and their families. Local lawyers were appointed for the children, one of whom offered to self-incriminate.

Since September 30, 2022, Tihran and Mykyta have been persecuted by Russian law enforcement agencies. Tihran was abducted from his home, where he lives with his grandmother. For five days, the family knew nothing about the child’s whereabouts. At the same time, Tihran was brutally interrogated by the “investigative authorities” and subjected to beatings and electric shocks. The investigators demanded that the boy confess that he was preparing a sabotage at the “Melitopol Railway”, which was supposed to prevent units of the Russian Armed Forces from obtaining the material and technical base for their military operations in Ukraine. After five days, following media coverage of the child’s disappearance, Tihran was released on the condition that he would report to local “law enforcement agencies” on a daily basis. Mykyta Khanhanov miraculously managed to avoid arrest, but later he was also obliged to report to investigators daily and participate in so-called investigative actions – interrogations, investigative experiments, etc.

An attempt by Tihran’s parents to return from Germany for him to take him out of the occupied territory was unsuccessful. The entire family was detained in Taganrog (Russian Federation).

The Media Initiative for Human Rights did not publicize this case for a long time, hoping that these “investigative actions” of the occupation authorities were another act of civilian intimidation in the occupied territories of Ukraine and that they would not resort to a real trial against the children. However, on May 24, both teenagers were charged under Article 281 of the Russian Criminal Code, which provides for 10 to 20 years in prison. We may assume that the kids will soon be arrested and placed on a show trial, which is planned to be organized by the Russian authorities seconded to Berdiansk.

In the indictment, the investigator states that in early September 2022, the boys conspired to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The investigator claims that the boys jointly damaged the railroad tracks to prevent the Russian armed forces from receiving material supplies.

Russian investigators are in a hurry to bring the case to court. In fact, the boys were left face-to-face with the Russian repressive machine, as the lawyers appointed by the investigator did not provide defense, which is not surprising given the atmosphere of fear that prevails in the Russian-occupied territories.

Media Initiative for Human Rights calls on the international community to take all possible public and non-public measures to release Tihran Ohannisian and Mykyta Khanhanov from persecution by the Russian authorities as soon as possible and to ensure their unimpeded travel to the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government or to a third country.

All those involved in the persecution of Ohannisian and Khanhanov, including the leadership of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and Russia’s top military and political leadership, must be brought to justice and subjected to severe sanctions in all countries of the civilized world that prioritize the rule of law and human rights. 

We, the Media Initiative for Human Rights and the parents of the children abused by the Russian authorities, are asking for maximum publicity of this situation and constant attention of the international community to it until 16-year-old Tihran and Mykyta are safe.

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