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4 Russian-affiliated fighters charged with war crimes in alleged torture of U.S. citizen

Charges mark first time Russian individuals have been charged by U.S. under its war crimes statue

Four individuals working alongside Russian forces in Ukraine have been charged with war crimes by the U.S. Justice Department. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (pictured at White House in May) noted that the charges were the first ever made under the U.S, war crimes statue against Russia-affiliated military personnel. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI
1 of 2 | Four individuals working alongside Russian forces in Ukraine have been charged with war crimes by the U.S. Justice Department. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (pictured at White House in May) noted that the charges were the first ever made under the U.S, war crimes statue against Russia-affiliated military personnel. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Four individuals working alongside Russian forces in Ukraine have been charged with war crimes by the U.S. Justice Department for their alleged torture of a U.S. citizen, according to documents unsealed Wednesday.

According to the Justice Department, the victim was a U.S. citizen residing in Kherson Oblast who was kidnapped by Russian forces for 10 days last year.

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"The defendents are alleged to have interrogated, severely beaten, and tortured the victim. They also allegedly threatened to kill the victim and conducted a mock execution," the Justice Department said in a press release Wednesday.

The accused individuals are Dmitry Budnik, Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and two individuals with unknown last names and the first names Nazar and Valerii.

"The Justice Department has filed the first-ever charges under the U.S. war crimes statue against four Russia-affiliated military personnel for heinous crimes against an American citizen," said Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Budnik and Mkrtchyan are alleged to be commanders in either the Russian military or the Russian-backed separatist entity known as the Donetsk People's Republic. Nazar and Valerii are believed to be lower ranking military personnel.

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"The indictments unsealed today send a clear message to Russia -- our government will spare no effort and spare no resource to hold accountable those who violate the fundamental human rights of an American," said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Officials said the charges were the first of their kind under U.S. war crimes statutes.

"Today's indictment - the first ever under the U.S. war crimes statute - makes clear that the FBI will work with the full cooperation of international law enforcement to bring justice to the victims of these atrocities," said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

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