Two Russian snipers accused of gang raping a mother at gunpoint in front of her husband are to face trial in a Ukrainian court.
One is accused of sexually assaulting the woman’s four-year-old daughter, and both ‘raped girls aged 15 and 17’ during Vladimir Putin‘s invasion.
A formal indictment has been sent by Ukrainian state prosecutors to the court and they will be tried – one in absentia, the other posthumously – for multiple acts of rape and using sexual violence as a war crime against women and underage girls.
It is now clear that one of the two Russian servicemen who later died in the war – Yevgeny Chernoknizhniy, 27 – was given a posthumous Order of Courage, an honour ultimately bestowed in the name of Putin, and hailed as a ‘hero’ and ‘real man’ at a ceremony commemorating his life.
The other, Vadim Shakhmatov, 31 at the time of the alleged sex attacks, remains alive in Russia, where he is married and the father of a young daughter.
Two Russian snipers accused of gang raping a mother at gunpoint in front of her husband are to face trial in a Ukrainian court. 27-year-old Yevgeny Chernoknizhniy (left) will be tried posthumously, while 31-year-old Vadim Shakhmatov (right) will be tried in absentia
The pair of accused snipers made a recce of Baryshevskaya village (pictured) to ‘determine…[those] houses in which young and attractive female faces were living’, said a Ukrainian national police report, laying out the accusations
The alleged rapes occurred in the Brovary district of Kyiv region in March 2022, the month after Putin launched his illegal invasion of sovereign state Ukraine
Although reported to have died, Shakhmatov confirmed his identity in a phone call to a number registered to him. He was asked to comment on his indictment in Ukraine for using rape as a war crime, but angrily snapped back at the caller.
‘Go **** yourself, here, this is how I comment. Go **** yourself,’ he told a reporter before ending the call. He earlier said ‘Yes, yes’ when asked if he was aware of the Ukrainian indictment against him.
His wife Anastasia Shakhmatova, 28, declined to comment, hanging up calls.
The couple have a young daughter who is seen on pictures with him.
Russia refuses to extradite its citizens and even they did, Moscow would not do so to Ukraine – meaning that although he will be tried, he cannot be forced to attend the court, and will evade punishment if convicted.
But he would be subject to arrest if he travelled to most European countries.
Previously unseen pictures show the two accused Russian snipers, including a ceremony in Orenburg region honouring Chernoknizhniy.
Young children were made to attend the ceremony.
The alleged rapes occurred in the Brovary district of Kyiv region in March 2022, the month after Putin launched his illegal invasion of sovereign state Ukraine.
They are seen as part of a pattern of systematic use of sexual violence by his invading troops that was also included in a UN report last year.
Details of horrific crimes came from residents of Brovary – along with other Kyiv suburbs such as Irpin and Bucha – after Russian forces pulled back from around the capital in April when the initial phase of the assault failed to capture the city.
The UN report also detailed how Russian soldiers conducted summary executions – executions without trial or due process – in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and the Summy regions, with the youngest victim being a 14-year-old boy.
Members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said they had also documented patterns of torture, ill-treatment and unlawful confinement committed in areas occupied by Russian armed forces.
All crimes listed amount to war crimes.
A screen grab from Vadim Shakhmatov’s social media account’s post in September 2022, showing him and sniper Yevgeny Chernoknizhniy together (circled), with a caption that translated ’15th Brigade is working/in action’
Picture shows 15th Brigade where both snipers served at the time of committing the crimes
The pair of accused snipers made a recce of Baryshevskaya village to ‘determine…[those] houses in which young and attractive female faces were living’, said a Ukrainian national police report, laying out the accusations.
Later the men returned having ‘agreed on a joint violation of the laws and customs of war’ with their plan to sexually violate girls and women in six families.
‘The accused broke into the house of a young couple and, threatening [them] with a weapon, raped the wife one by one,’ said a statement on the indictment from the Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office.
Her husband was beaten then forced to kneel and watch as she was raped.
‘Later, one of the accused raped their four-year-old daughter,’ the statement said.
Earlier evidence in this case says one of the two Russian snipers told the girl he ‘will make her a woman’ before forcing her to perform oral sex.
‘After that, the accused broke into another house, where they also raped a pregnant woman and a minor girl at gunpoint,’ said the prosecutor-general’s statement.
Later the same day the two Russian servicemen ‘broke into the house of another woman and tried to rape her.
‘However, after the victim’s resistance, they went to a neighbouring house.
‘There, the accused isolated the mother and her minor daughter in separate rooms and raped them one by one.
‘At the same time, the military shut the family members living in the house in the kitchen so that they could not resist.’
The ages of the two other underage girls allegedly raped by the Russian snipers have been given as 15 and 17.
A total of a dozen people were ‘injured’ by the ‘criminal actions’ of the pair, from the 15th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade.
The brigade received the honourable ‘Guards’ title from Putin in May 2022.
Separately, soldiers in the brigade captured by Ukraine apologised during a press conference in March 2022. ‘I apologize for myself [and] for my squad to every home, to every street, to every citizen of Ukraine, to the elderly, to women, to children for our invasion of these lands,’ one of the soldiers, who was identified by Interfax-Ukraine as Sergey Galkin, was quoted as saying.
‘I gravely apologize for our treacherous invasion.’
The accused snipers are among 235 cases of conflict-related sexual violence involving 150 females and 85 males.
Yevgeny Chernoknizhniy, 27 – was given a posthumous Order of Courage, an honour ultimately bestowed in the name of Putin
Chernoknizhniy, from Orenburg region, was killed in unexplained circumstances one month after the alleged rapes for which he will stand trial posthumously in Ukraine. Pictured: A plaque in his honour in the village school he attended
The snipers were ‘in a state of alcoholic intoxication’, according to earlier evidence on the pair’s alleged actions.
The victims were given medical and psychological help after their ordeal.
Chernoknizhniy, from Orenburg region, was killed in unexplained circumstances one month after the alleged rapes for which he will stand trial posthumously in Ukraine.
The administration of his region said ‘he was only 27 when he died’.
He was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage in September 2022, six months after the sexual violence reported in Brovary district.
He held the rank of Junior Sergeant when he was killed.
He was buried on 27 April 2023 in the village of Chebotaryovo.
A eulogy and plaque in his honour in the village school he attended makes no mention of the sickening allegations of sexual torture involving underage girls amounting to war crimes, instead portraying him as a selfless hero.
‘Our compatriot, a native of the village Chebotaryovo, Yevgeny Andreevich Chernoknyzhniy, senior sniper of the rifle platoon of the rifle company, died on 15 April 2022. He was only 27 years old.
‘It is impossible to express the pain of loss in words.
‘Yevgeny chose the defence of the Fatherland as his life’s work and remained faithful to his oath and duty to the end, steadfastly proved himself in the performance of military service duties, valiantly defended the Motherland from neo-Nazis.’
Local dignitaries attended a ceremony to commemorate his life.
Head of the district Viktor Paukov said: ‘Yevgeny is a worthy son of his parents, Andrey and Natalya. You raised a real man.
‘If it weren’t for heroes like Yevgeny, the front line would already be closer to us.
‘A commemorative plaque is a small thing we can do to honour his memory, to say thank you for what he did for our country. He is a hero and in our memory he will remain forever. The kingdom of heaven to the defender.’
The praise for the alleged rapist went on saying his name ‘will forever be inscribed in the history of the village, district, and all of Russia.
‘Having accomplished his feat, he proved that he is a worthy successor to the work of his grandfathers and great-grandfathers who defended the Motherland in the Great Patriotic War [Second World War], and his fathers and brothers who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Vadim Shakhmatov (right), 31 at the time of the alleged sex attacks, remains alive in Russia , where he is married and the father of a young daughter
‘As long as we remember him, he will be with us.’
Ukrainian open source investigators OSINT BDZHOLI – who revealed details of the case – said Russians should know their ‘rapist heroes’.
Putin’s government, which says it is fighting Western-backed ‘neo-Nazis’ in Ukraine, has repeatedly denied allegations of atrocities. It has also denied that its military commanders are aware of sexual violence by soldiers.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing genocide against his people after the horrific events in Bucha and other towns surrounding Kyiv were uncovered in April last year.