Russian investigators open criminal case against Ukraine's defense minister, General Staff chief

The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal inquiry against Ukraine's Defense Ministry Valeriy Heletey, Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff Viktor Muzhenko and their subordinates on the counts of using prohibited methods of warfare and genocide, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax on Thursday.

The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal inquiry against Ukraine's Defense Ministry Valeriy Heletey, Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff Viktor Muzhenko and their subordinates on the counts of using prohibited methods of warfare and genocide, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax on Thursday.

Among other suspects in this case are commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' 25th brigade Oleh Mikas, the as-yet-unidentified commanders of the 93rd brigade, as well as "a number of high-ranking military officials of Ukraine," he said.

"Investigators believe that the actions of all aforementioned persons show signs of crimes such as the organization of murders, the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare, as well as genocide," Markin said.

Heletey, Muzhenko, Mikas and the commanders of the 93rd brigade, who coordinated the army operation near Donetsk airport from July 3 to September 5, 2014 "acted in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and other international legal acts condemning genocide and intentionally issued orders aimed at fully eliminating ethnic Russian-speaking groups living on the territory of the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics," Markin said.

"When implementing these orders, servicemen reporting to these commanders used Grad and Uragan multi-launch rocket systems, unguided air-launched missiles equipped with cluster warheads, Tochka-U tactical missiles and other indiscriminate heavy offensive weapons as they launched strikes against the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and other towns and villages in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics," he said.

As a result of these actions, more than 5,000 civilians were injured and over 500 houses, infrastructure facilities, hospitals, kindergartens and schools were destroyed either completely or partially, he said.

Furthermore, more than 300,000 residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions were forced to flee to Russia fearing for their lives and health, Markin said.

"Despite the declared truce, civilians continue to die in Donbas every day. It is absolutely obvious that this is happening either as a result of direct orders issued by the defense minister or with his mute endorsement. And he will be held to account for all this. Even the trick of signing his oath of allegiance with a capped pen will not be able to save him [Heletey]. Such crimes have no statute of limitations," Markin said.

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