Three months after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, judges in kyiv handed down the first guilty verdict for a Russian soldier on trial for war crimes on Monday.
sergeant. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was convicted of shooting a 62-year-old civilian, Oleksandr Shelipov, in the northern Sumy region in the early days of the war. Sergeant Shishimarin, who pleaded guilty at the start of the trial last week, was sentenced to life in prison.
Judge Serhiy Ahafonov found Sergeant Shishimarin guilty of violating the laws and customs of war and of having committed premeditated murder. The verdict can be appealed.
“The defendant admitted his guilt in part, arguing that he had no intention of killing Mr. Shelipov,” Judge Ahafonov said. “The court cannot recognize the sincerity of the repentance.”
The defendant sat in a glass cage, wearing the same blue and gray hoodie he wore at each trial appearance, his head bowed as an interpreter whispered to him in Russian through an opening in the glass . After the verdict, as the court emptied of the hundreds of local and foreign journalists who had gathered to hear the sentence, the sergeant paced the cell.
Sergeant Shishimarin was part of a 40-mile-long convoy of armored vehicles winding its way from the Russian border to kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, which Moscow initially expected to take within days.
According to prosecutors, Sergeant Shishimarin commanded a tank division of the Moscow region. When his convoy was attacked by Ukrainian forces on February 28, the Russians dispersed. Sergeant Shishimarin encountered four other men, who stole a car and attempted to flee.
From the car, in the village of Chupahivka, they saw Mr. Shelipov, who was talking on the phone while riding his bicycle. Believing Mr Shelipov would report their position to nearby Ukrainian forces, another soldier – who was not Sgt Shishimarin’s superior – told him to shoot, prosecutors said.
Sergeant Shishimarin fired three or four shots from his Kalashnikov.
When his trial began last week, Sergeant Shishimarin admitted his guilt. At a subsequent hearing, he apologized to Mr. Shelipov’s widow after she gave emotional testimony, asking: “Did you come to defend us? From whom? Did you come to defend me from my husband whom you killed?
The verdict represents an important step in Ukraine’s attempts to hold Russia and its soldiers accountable for atrocities committed during the war.
Russo-Ukrainian War: Main Developments
“Investigating and holding all war crimes to account is our main focus now,” Ukraine’s Attorney General Irina Venediktova wrote on Facebook last week. She announced that two other trials had started in the Poltava region against soldiers who had bombed the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Experts said the trial was one of the fastest in Ukraine’s recent history.
“Right now, Shishimarin’s trial looks like what we dreamed of,” said Olha Reshetylova, coordinator of a media initiative for human rights organizations.
It was conducted, she said, “without undue delays or artificial procrastination on the part of the parties to the case and the court, with the possibility of access to the court hearing for all, with a broadcast online and media and public attention”.
Ms Reshetylova lamented that it took “a full-scale Russian invasion for the Ukrainian justice system to understand that transparency and accessibility in war is not only a matter of justice, but also an element of justice to satisfy the victims”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov acknowledged the lawsuit during a call with reporters on Monday.
“Of course we are concerned about the fate of our citizen,” he said. “But we don’t have many opportunities to protect his interests there.”
Maria Varenikova contributed report.