Accessibility links

Breaking News

Ukraine Sentences Brazilian Who Fought For Russia-Backed Separatists To 13 Years In Prison

Rafael Lusvarghi at his trial in Pavlograd. (file photo)
Rafael Lusvarghi at his trial in Pavlograd. (file photo)

A Brazilian citizen has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for fighting for Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Rafael Lusvarghi, 34, came to Ukraine in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and Moscow-backed separatists began battling Ukrainian government forces in the east of the country.

Lusvarghi fought on the separatist side and appeared frequently in Russian and separatist propaganda videos, before returning to Brazil in 2015.

Lusvarghi traveled back to Ukraine in 2016 and was arrested upon arrival.

He was accused of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison in January 2017 but released in December the same year.

He was discovered by an RFE/RL reporter while living in an Orthodox monastery in Kyiv and was interviewed in May 2018.

Activists from an ultranationalist group captured Lusvarghi shortly afterward and brought him to the SBU headquarters by force. He was then rearrested.

On May 2, Lusvarghi was once again sentenced to prison by a court in Pavlograd, a city in the Dnipropetrovsk region, to 13 years in prison -- the same sentence he received in 2017.

He was found guilty of fighting for an illegal militant formation and participating in terrorism.

Lusvarghi pleaded guilty on the charges of fighting for an illegal formation, but denied the terrorism charges.

Lusvarghi will also have to pay $560-worth of court expenses.

According to Ukrainian law, the year Lusvarghi spent in pretrial detention will reduce his sentence by two years, bringing his prison term down to 11 years.

With reporting by
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.