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Murder of two teenage Ukrainian partisans in Berdyansk: Russia has not returned boys' bodies to parents for six months

27 December, 2023 Wednesday

Russian troops in Berdyansk killed two underage partisans, Tigran Ohannisyan and Mykyta Khanganov: the bodies of the children have not been returned to their parents yet, and it is unknown where they are

Andrey Yakovlev, the lawyer of the family of the murdered Tigran Ohannisyan, told this in a commentary to Radio Liberty. 

According to him, the bodies of the children are probably in the morgue in Berdyansk, but it is impossible to confirm this. 

"When will the bodies be handed over? We do not know. In what conditions are they stored? We don't know. We can assume that they are still in the morgue in Berdyansk. However, we cannot prove it. They (the occupation authorities - ed.) probably just think that they can keep the bodies until the issue is somehow resolved in a way that would be convenient for them," Yakovlev said.

The lawyer noted that Russia has a formal reason for postponing the funeral: conducting an examination and investigation in the case on the charges of the underage boys. But he believes that the real reason is that the Russia is trying to hide the premeditated murder. 

"When there is a shot in the head at close range and, let's say, in the heart, and not just one. When the bullet went through the mouth and out the other side of the head, it is obvious that it was done at close range. When everyone sees the body, it is evidence of a crime, a war crime. And without the bodies, they (Russian occupiers - ed.) probably think that it is more difficult to prove this crime. Therefore, I think they are not returning the bodies because it is clear that this was not some kind of police detention mission, but an extrajudicial execution," the lawyer said.

He added that a third party would probably be able to return the bodies to the families.

Who are Tigran Ohannisyan and Mykyta Khanganov?

The Media Initiative for Human Rights reported that on the night of 30 September 2022, the Russian military abducted 16-year-old Tigran Ohannisyan, who lived with his grandmother in occupied Berdyansk. He was arrested, but released on 5 October. After his release, Tigran said that during his arrest he had been subjected to electric shocks, interrogation and a mock execution.

On the same day, 30 September 2022, the occupation police came to the house of 16-year-old Mykyta Khanganov, Tigran's classmate, to search it. The family was not at home that day, so Russian occupation authorities returned 2 weeks later and arrested Mykyta and his father. They were interrogated at the police station but released.

Since then, Russian occupation authorities have regularly interrogated Tigran and Mykyta and searched their homes. The children were obliged to report to the police station every day.

On 24 May 2023, Tigran Ohannisyan and Mykyta Khanganov were charged by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation with allegedly preparing a railway sabotage. The case was being prepared for trial, and Russia planned to sentence the boys to 20 years in prison.

On 15 June 2023, the European Parliament adopted a resolution demanding that Russia stop persecuting Tigran Ohannisyan and Mykyta Khanganov and release them to the territory controlled by Ukraine. "425 deputies voted in favour, 3 voted against, and 15 abstained.

On the evening of 24 June, the occupying head of Zaporizhzhia region, Vladimir Rogov, said that two underage Ukrainian partisans had been killed in Berdyansk. Rogov claims that at 19:00 on 24 June, the boys "opened fire on the embankment, where there were civilians", and he names Tigran Ohannisyan, a minor, as one of the "culprits". 

The coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights, Olha Reshetylova, said that the second guerrilla killed was Mykyta Khanganov. Both boys were born in 2006. 

Human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets reacted to the killing of the two teenage Ukrainian boys. He noted that Russia must be punished, as the killers must be convicted. 

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