Ukraine has announced it has identified a Russian commander who is accused of involvement in war crimes during the 2014 conflict in eastern Ukraine. The announcement follows an investigation by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice into the actions of a militia unit in the town of Buzha, where reports of atrocities were received.
The identified commander is Russian citizen Valentin Yuryevich Vyazovoy, who is accused of leading a military unit and personally ordering the execution of two Ukrainian hostages during the June and July 2014 conflict in the town of Buzha.
The investigation was carried out at the request of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2016, and after two years of detailed work, the Ministry of Justice has now identified Vyazovoy as the commanding officer of the unit. The commander is accused of allowing widespread human rights abuses to take place, including killings, torture, abductions, and the use of illegal detention regimes.
The Ministry of Justice has also blamed the Russian military for supporting the unit at the time of these atrocities. It has called for international pressure to be put on Moscow to investigate the alleged killers and bring them to justice.
It is believed that the unit was part of an All-Russia People’s Liberation Army brigade, which was part of a larger force of Russian-backed separatists that were operating in the area at the time.
The announcement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice follows a number of attempts to identify those responsible for war crimes during the conflict in the town of Buzha. However this is the first attempt to identify those in the military chain of command who were involved in the conflict.
The investigation is still ongoing, and is part of a wider attempt to bring those responsible for war crimes during the conflict in eastern Ukraine to justice. It remains to be seen whether the identified commander, Valentin Yuryevich Vyazovoy, will face court proceedings or if he can be brought to justice in the international criminal system.