Russian Court sentences Ukrainian General Gnatov to 28 years in absentia

The ruling was handed down by a military court in Rostov-on-Don, according to a statement from Russia’s Investigative Committee released on Tuesday.

A Russian court has sentenced Brigadier General Andrei Gnatov of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to 28 years in prison in absentia for alleged crimes committed in the Donbass region during the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

The ruling was handed down by a military court in Rostov-on-Don, according to a statement from Russia’s Investigative Committee released on Tuesday. Gnatov was found guilty of ordering subordinate forces to carry out indiscriminate mortar attacks on civilian populations in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic between 2018 and 2019.

The committee said that the investigation gathered irrefutable evidence that Gnatov issued criminal orders to subordinate units to fire mortars and artillery at residential areas under the control of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Russia has backed the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since the conflict erupted in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The sentencing comes as Gnatov had reportedly been in the running for a senior command position after the dismissal in February of General Valeriy Zaluzhny, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Ukrainian media reported that Gnatov was one of five combat generals who applied for top roles but were ultimately not appointed.

Ukrainian officials have not commented on the Russian court’s verdict against Gnatov, who remains in Ukrainian territory. Kyiv has repeatedly accused Moscow of carrying out show trials without credible evidence against Ukrainian soldiers as propaganda amid the ongoing conflict.

The sentencing represents an escalation in Russia’s prosecution of Ukrainian military leaders. It remains unclear if Russia would be able to detain Gnatov to carry out the lengthy sentence should he travel outside Ukraine in the future.