A special war crimes tribunal established in the breakaway Lugansk People’s Republic has found guilty and sentenced eight criminal defendants. They are all current or former members of the coup regime which came to power in Kiev in February 2014.
The “Ukrainian People’s Tribunal” was organized in March of this year at the initiative of a group of lawyers in Ukraine’s war-ravaged Donbass region, of which Lugansk forms a part. Although such a body is not provided for in Ukraine’s constitution, the organizers say the trial was run in accordance with Ukrainian legal procedures and all judges were Ukrainian citizens.
Russian news outlet RIA Novosti reported the list of those convicted as follows:
In addition to [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Alexander Turchynov, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Andrey Parubiy, the head of the Defense Ministry Stepan Poltorak and the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Viktor Muzhenko, as well as the former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the acting head Cabinet of Ministers Vladimir Groysman were convicted. All of them were sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment.
Then acting president Turchynov, along with Avakov who was then national security secretary, sent the Ukrainian military into Donbass in April 2014 in response to counter-protests which occupied government buildings there in opposition to the Kiev coup.
Organizing themselves as the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk, locals put up armed resistance against the Kiev government forces, which were joined by and still include various right-wing extremist and openly declared neo-Nazi formations. The control exercised by the Ukrainian government over many of these formations can be described as weak at best.
So far the war has killed over 10,000 people, and both sides have been locked in a stalemate since about September 2014, which occasional flare-ups and Ukrainian shelling of the two rebel cities. President Poroshenko has shown no indication of being willing to implement peace agreements he signed with the two republics at Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015.
Although the organizers of the Lugansk war crimes tribunal admit their verdict stands little chance of being implemented in the short term, they plan to pass on all materials from the trial to the Supreme Court of Ukraine which could conduct a legally-recognized proceeding once there is a change of government in Kiev.