Finland seeks jailing, probe of Russian man wanted in Ukraine over alleged war crimes in 2014-2015

HELSINKI (AP) — Finnish police on Sunday sought a court order to imprison a Russian man who had been living under an alias in the Nordic country and is accused of committing war crimes against wounded or surrendered soldiers in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and 2015.

Yan Petrovsky, who had been living in Finland under the name Voislav Torden, is already in Finnish custody but authorities are asking that he be formally jailed while they conduct an investigation into his alleged crimes against Ukrainian soldiers. A court ruling on his imprisonment is expected on Monday.

Finland’s Supreme Court has ruled that Petrovsky cannot be extradited to Ukraine, where he faces an arrest warrant, due to the risk of inhumane prison conditions there. Sunday’s decision indicates Finnish authorities plan to investigate and possibly try the Russian in Finland, which has signed treaties allowing it to try international crimes.

Petrovsky is currently on the European Union’s sanctions list against Russia for allegedly being a founding member of the far-right group Rusich that is suspected of terrorism crimes in Ukraine and is connected with Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, the Finnish news agency STT reported.

Petrovsky, who earlier resided in Norway, was taken into custody by Finnish authorities after he was caught at Helsinki Airport in July shortly before he was fly to Nice, France together with his family.

Media reports said he managed to enter Finland despite a EU-wide entry ban with the help of a new identity and his wife’s student status in the Nordic country.

The National Bureau of Investigation – a unit of the Finnish police – provided the imprisonment request for Petrovsky, aged 36, to the Helsinki District Court on Sunday, STT said.

Citing his Finnish lawyer, STT said Petrovsky has denied all war crimes charges against him.

Finland’s National Prosecution Authority on Friday said Petrovsky is suspected of war crimes “committed against wounded or surrendered Ukrainian soldiers during the armed conflict in Ukraine” in 2014-2015 before the start of Moscow’s ongoing assault on Ukraine in February 2022.

“The crimes will be investigated by Finnish authorities, because the suspect cannot be extradited to Ukraine, and the case, as an international crime, falls under the jurisdiction of Finland,” the Finnish prosecutors said in a statement.

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