Two Ukrainian Children at Risk of 20 Years in Russian Prison

By Brian Dooley

Two 16 year-old Ukrainian boys are at risk of being sentenced to up to 20 years in prison by a Russian court, according to Kyiv-based NGO the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR).

The two children are from the port city of Berdiansk, in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. The city has been occupied by Russian forces since February 2022.

The two have reportedly been subjected to months of abuse in detention and charged with planning to sabotage railway lines.

MIHR says the pair have been charged by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and have been appointed local lawyers.

Both are Ukrainian citizens but one of the boys has Armenian heritage.  On September 30, 2022, he was taken from his home where he lives with his grandmother, and was reportedly tortured with electric shocks as interrogators tried to force him to confess to preparing to sabotage the rail lines at Melitopol. These rail lines were supplying Russian forces.

He was released five days later and ordered to report to the occupying forces every day. His parents tried to rescue him by taking him to Germany, but they were prevented from traveling out of Russia with him.

The second boy had managed to evade capture but was eventually told to report for interrogation.

Yesterday both boys were charged under Article 281 of the Russian Criminal Code, which provides for 10 to 20 years in prison. They are accused of conspiring to help the Ukrainian military in early September 2022, and damaging the rail line to prevent Russian forces from receiving supplies.

Ukrainian NGOs fear the children will soon face a show trial in Berdiansk.

The boys should be returned immediately to their families and not face trial, and those responsible for abusing them should be held to account.



  • Brian Dooley

Published on May 25, 2023


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