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Russia aims to jail two Ukrainian teenagers for rail sabotage plot, watchdog says – POLITICO

KYIV — Russia is seeking to jail two Ukrainian teenagers for allegedly planning to sabotage the railways that help supply the Russian military.

The Ukrainian boys, from Berdyansk in the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region, now face up to 20 years in prison, the Ukrainian organization Media Initiative for Human Rights has reported.

On Wednesday, Russia charged 16-year-olds Tihran Ohannisian and Mykyta Khanhanov. Russian investigators also suspect the teenagers of conspiring with the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia’s state investigative commission did not respond to a request for comment.

“We never involve minors in our work,” the Ukrainian Center for National Resistance, an organization that coordinates Ukrainian partisans in the occupied territories, told POLITICO.

The indictment was preceded by months of intimidation, detention and torture of children and their families, the Media Initiative for Human Rights said in a statement.

According to the watchdog, the teenagers 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 did not know the child’s whereabouts. At the same time, Tihran was brutally interrogated by ‘investigating authorities’ and subjected to beatings and electric shocks,” the human rights watchdog said. Khanhanov managed to avoid arrest but was also forced to report to investigators daily.

“We didn’t publicize this situation for a long time, hoping that it would all end with the intimidation of children and their families. But it was naive to expect even such relative humanity from 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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