War crimes in Mariupol: Justice for Lithuanian filmmaker

Ukraine – War crimes – Mariupol

The Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius was apprehended by pro-Russian militias in the spring of 2022 while trying to evacuate civilians from Mariupol. He was found murdered a few days later. At the time, the Ukrainian city was under siege by Russian troops, exacting extreme brutality on the civilian population. His fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova, managed to recover Mantas’ body and turn it over to the Lithuanian investigating authorities. ECCHR is supporting the investigation of the case with the aim of holding those responsible to account.


Mantas Kvedaravičius, Lithuanian filmmaker and social anthropologist, spent years researching life in post-Soviet conflict zones, which he then processed through his artistic work on Chechnya and Ukraine. With the award-winning documentary Mariupolis (2016), he documented life in Mariupol, which had been attacked by pro-Russian separatists. In March 2022, shortly after the expansion of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Mantas and his fiancée Hanna Bilobrova returned to Mariupol, which was already under heavy bombardment and artillery fire at the time, in order to support the city’s residents and film the second part of Mariupolis.

While attempting to evacuate civilians from the city, Mantas and a companion were arrested by pro-Russian militias – presumably soldiers from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). It is likely due to his Lithuanian identity and the false insinuation that he may have been involved in military action that he was held in custody and then died under as-of-yet unexplained circumstances. 

After several days of searching, Hanna found Mantas’ body not far from where he had been arrested. In spite of military combat actively underway at the location, she managed to recover the body and transfer it to the Lithuanian investigative authorities. After Mantas’ death, Hanna completed Mariupolis 2 with the assistance of film editor Dounia Sichov. In the process, they used the footage Mantas and Hanna had shot on location, which was smuggled out of occupied Mariupol.

ECCHR is supporting the investigation of the case and Hanna’s fight for justice with the aim of bringing those responsible to justice. Through information gathered by Hanna during her own research and a separate digital open-source investigation conducted by the Justice & Accountability Unit, a joint initiative of Bellingcat and the Global Legal Action Network, evidence concerning potential perpetrators and witnesses has been identified, which ECCHR submitted to the Lithuanian authorities. In February 2024, the General Prosecutor of Lithuania announced that three soldiers of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic had been identified as suspects and charged with the unlawful arrest, deprivation of liberty and murder of the filmmaker. To locate the suspects and serve them with the court orders, Lithuania has submitted a legal assistance request to Ukraine.


In the war of aggression against Ukraine, Russia is committing grave violations of international law. In addition to the international crime of aggression committed by the Russian regime in invading Ukraine, there are numerous reports of kidnapping, torture and killing of Ukrainian civilians, as well as widespread sexual and gender-based violence. ECCHR is working with survivors and partners from Ukraine on selected cases to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable.

The case of Mantas and the fate of Mariupol are emblematic of Russian war crimes and attacks on the civilian population: the siege and bombardment of civilian infrastructure in Mariupol, which lasted for months, led to immense destruction and thousands of civilian victims. There were hardly any ways to escape – the evacuation of civilians from the besieged city was practically impossible for an extended period of time. Thus, between February and April 2022, Mariupol was presumably the deadliest place in all of Ukraine.


Glossary (1)


War crimes

War crimes are serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed in armed conflict.

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Topics (2)


War crimes

Attacks directed against civilians; torture of detainees; sexual slavery – when committed within the context of armed conflict, these and other grave crimes amount to war crimes as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. While the system of international criminal justice makes it possible to prosecute war crimes, in many cases those responsible are not held to account.

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