Russian held in Finland suspected of 2014-15 war crimes in Ukraine

HELSINKI (Reuters) – A Russian man suspected of committing war crimes in Ukraine in 2014-2015 has been remanded in custody in Finland, a Finnish district court said following an arraignment hearing on Monday.

Finnish authorities took Yan Petrovsky into custody in August after Ukraine issued an arrest warrant for the man who is suspected of participating in a terrorist organisation, court documents seen by Reuters showed.

Ukraine had requested extradition of Petrovsky but the Finnish Supreme Court earlier this month rejected this, citing the risk of inhumane prison conditions.

The deadline for pressing charges is May 31, 2024, the district court said on Monday.

Social media channels linked to Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries said in August that Petrovsky was a top fighter in Rusich, a far-right sub-unit affiliated to Wagner.

Rusich identified Petrovsky as a founding member and leader of the unit who has been under European Union and United States sanctions since last year.

He helped found Rusich as an explicitly neo-Nazi unit during the opening stages of the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas in 2014. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine the same year.

It is unclear how Petrovsky was able to enter Finland while under EU sanctions. In Finland, Petrovsky has used the name Voislav Torden, court documents showed.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto, editing by Terje Solsvik and Nick Macfie)