KYIV — Russia is looking to throw two Ukrainian teenagers in jail for allegedly planning to sabotage railways that help supply the Russian army.
The Ukrainian boys, from Berdiansk in the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region, now face up to 20 years in prison, Ukrainian watchdog Media Initiative for Human Rights reported.
Russia charged 16-year-olds Tihran Ohannisian and Mykyta Khanhanov on Wednesday. Russian investigators also suspect the teenagers conspired with Ukraine’s armed forces. The Russian State Investigative Committee did not respond to a request for comment.
“We never involve minors in our work,” Ukraine’s Center for the National Resistance, an organization that coordinates Ukrainian partisans in the occupied territories, told POLITICO.
The indictment was preceded by several months of bullying, detention, and torture of the children and their families, the Media Initiative for Human Rights said in a statement.
According to the watchdog, the teens have been persecuted and interrogated by Russian authorities since September 2022.
“Tihran was abducted from his home, where he lives with his grandmother. For five days, the family knew nothing about the child’s whereabouts. At the same time, Tihran was brutally interrogated by the ‘investigative authorities’ and subjected to beatings and electric shock,” the human rights watchdog said. Khanhanov managed to avoid arrest but was also obliged to report to investigators daily.
“We did not publicize this situation for a long time, hoping that everything would end with the intimidation of children and their families. But it was naive to hope even for such a relative humanity of the Russian authorities. They are planning to hold a show trial of Ukrainian teenagers,” Olga Reshetylova, co-founder of the Media Initiative for Human Rights, said in a Facebook post.
The boys are currently not under arrest and insist they are not guilty, Media Initiative for Human Rights lawyer Andriy Yakovlev told POLITICO.
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