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30 Apr, 2017 20:57

Austrian, who fought for Kiev in E. Ukraine, accused of war crimes

Austrian, who fought for Kiev in E. Ukraine, accused of war crimes

An Austrian citizen, who traveled to Ukraine to fight for the Kiev government against the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk Republics, has been arrested in Poland on charges of committing war crimes.

The suspect, 25, whose identity has not yet been revealed, faces charges of “killing enemy soldiers, who have already surrendered, as well as civilians,” a regional Prosecutor’s Office in the town of Wiener Neustadt located in the Lower Austria said, as reported by the Austrian Der Standard newspaper.

According to the Austria’s ORF broadcaster, the suspect comes from the western Austrian region of Vorarlberg.

A spokesman of the Prosecutor’s Office, Erich Habitzl, told the Austrian APA news agency that the suspect committed war crimes “during the battle over Donetsk airport.”

Earlier, AFP reported that the suspect fought for the self-proclaimed republics but Habitzl dismissed these reports and explicitly stated that he fought “for the Ukrainian side.”

The Austrian Prosecutor’s Office had issued a Europe-wide arrest warrant against the man a few weeks ago. As a result, he was detained at a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine located not far from the Polish town of Dorohusk as he was trying to enter Ukrainian territory.

The suspect also faces separate charges in a drug-related case, the Austrian Prosecutor’s Office added.

It is yet unclear when he will be extradited to Austria. "At present [the suspect] remains at the disposal of the Polish judiciary," Lieutenant Dariusz Sienicki, a spokesman for the Polish border service, told Reuters. "The person is awaiting proceedings relating to extradition to Austria."

The conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in the spring of 2014 after a wave of protests led to an armed coup that ousted the elected government in Kiev.

The new government sent troops to the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which were unwilling to recognize the coup-installed authorities. The turmoil has claimed the lives of nearly 9,800 people since then, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.