A court in Ukraine has jailed a 21 year old Russian tank commander for life for killing a civilian at the first war crimes trial since the invasion.
Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin has been sentenced to life in prison for war crimes by a court in Kyiv. Prosecutors accused the 21-year-old sergeant of shooting dead an elderly civilian in the northeastern Sumy Region of Ukraine during the first days of the Russian military offensive.
Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin admitted murdering Oleksandr Shelipov, a civilian, as Russian soldiers drove into the village of Chupakhivka four days into the invasion.
He pleaded guilty to the 28 February murder when proceedings started on Wednesday at a Kyiv district court.
It is the first war crimes trial of the Ukraine war.
Shishimarin was convicted of killing Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, in the north-eastern village of Chupakhivka on 28 February.
Shishimarin admitted shooting Mr Shelipov but said he had been acting on orders and asked forgiveness of the man’s widow. “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me.”
Ms Shelipova had stated: “I feel very sorry for him but for a crime like that – I can’t forgive him.”
‘Shot in head while cycling and on the phone’
Ukrainian prosecutors say Shishimarin and four other servicemen had stolen a private car to escape after their column was targeted by Ukrainian forces.
As they arrived in Chupakhivka, about 200 miles east of Kyiv, they saw Mr Shelipov cycling and talking on his phone.
Prosecutors said Shishimarin was ordered by another soldier to kill him to stop him from reporting their presence.
He’s said to have fired several shots through the car’s open window at Mr Shelipov’s head.
He died a few metres from his home.
The Russian serviceman received the harshest punishment possible under Ukrainian law, as the death penalty has been banned in the country since 2000.
Imposing the life sentence, Judge Serhiy Agafonov said Shishimarin, 21, had carried out a “criminal order” by a soldier of higher rank.
Shishimarin has “violated the rules and customs of war” and should be “found guilty and assigned a penalty of life in prison,” the judge said.
“Given that the crime committed is a crime against peace, security, humanity and the international legal order… the court does not see the possibility of imposing a [shorter] sentence of imprisonment,” he said.
Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings silently from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom and showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.
His lawyer said an appeal would be lodged against the verdict.
Shishimarin’s lawyers say they are going to appeal the ruling, with plans to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if higher Ukrainian courts uphold the sentence.
Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow has been concerned with the soldier’s trial, especially considering that Russia currently lacked the ability to “protect his interests on site.”
Russian institutions are currently unable to carry out their activities in Ukraine, Peskov explained. “But this doesn’t mean that we won’t consider the possibility of continuing attempts [to help the serviceman] through other channels,” he added.
Since the start of the conflict, Russia has insisted that its military isn’t targeting civilians, while only hitting Ukrainian forces and military infrastructure.
The Kremlin’s response is already in motion, with laws being drafted and courts being set up in Russia to try some Ukrainian prisoners as war criminals.
This suggests both countries could soon find themselves in a legal tit-for-tat while the conflict rages on.
Since President Putin sent Russian troops into Ukraine on 24 February, at least 3,838 civilians have been killed and 4,351 injured, according to the UN.
Prior to the 24th of February invasion over 14,000 people had been reported killed during the ongoing Ukraine civil war.