Russian soldier pleads guilty in first Ukraine war crimes trial

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Vadim Shishimarin in court in Kyiv  (EPA)
Vadim Shishimarin in court in Kyiv (EPA)

A Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old man dead in the first war crimes trial to be held in Ukraine.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, gave the plea at the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv on Wednesday afternoon. He now faces up to life in prison.

The murder took place on 28 February in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka, just days after Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine.

Ukrainian state prosecutors accused Mr Shishimarin of firing several shots at the man as he cycled through the village. They said the defendant was instructed to kill the civilian by another Russian soldier, who feared that the 62-year-old, who was on the phone, could tell Ukrainian authorities about the Russians’ presence in the village.

The victim “died instantly, a few dozen metres from his home”, according to the prosecution.

Shortly before the killing, the two Russian troops and three of their colleagues had stolen a private car after their column was targeted by Ukrainian forces.

Russia strenuously denies that its forces have committed war crimes, saying they have not targeted non-combatants. However, the UN estimates said that at least 3,541 civilians were killed between 24 February and 12 May.

Also on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed in a new report that Russian soldiers committed war crimes in northeastern Ukraine by executing and torturing civilians. The NGO documented 22 alleged summary executions in parts of the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions that Kremlin troops held between late February and the end of March.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova suggested more Russian soldiers would stand trial for their crimes, saying her office is investigating 40 suspects and over 11,000 alleged war crimes cases.

“By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility,” she said.

On Thursday, Ukraine will try two more Russian soldiers who are charged with firing missiles at civilian buildings in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city.

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