Undeterred and still wearing Russian army boots, soldier Vadim Shishimarin heard Monday the sentence of the Ukrainian justice that sentenced him to life in prison for killing a civilian who simply talked on the phone on the street leaning on his bicycle. This has been decided by a court that has found Shishimarin guilty of murder in what means the first trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes in Ukraine.
The court has detailed that the 21-year-old soldier shot a civilian who was not armed and that he did so intentionally, although the victim, a 62-year-old man, had not shown any aggression.
The trial, held over three days, is the first of several to be held in the coming weeks and will be a test for the Ukrainian judicial system, at a time when international institutions are launching their own investigations into abuses committed by Russian troops. since the beginning of the invasion at the end of February.
According to the court, on February 28, Shishimarin and four other Russian soldiers were driving a stolen civilian car through the village of Chupakhivka in Sumi province near Ukraine’s northeastern border with Russia. The soldiers came across a local peasant, Shelipov, who was on the street talking on the phone. Shishimarin then took his kalashnikov and shot him in the head from the car window. Shortly after they tried to flee, but were ambushed by Ukrainian militiamen until Shishimarin surrendered.
Almost three months after that, the express trial against Shishimarin has been held, who has followed the sessions inside an armored glass compartment dressed in a sweatshirt. Shishimarin listened without moving and in silence to the court sentence that condemns him to spend the rest of his life in a Ukrainian prison.
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Before learning of the verdict, the peasant’s widow addressed the soldier, looking him in the eye: “Tell me, please, why did you come here? To protect us?” she asked, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s argument to justify the invasion of Ukraine. “What did my husband do to you?” she asked him again.
The soldier’s lawyer asked for his acquittal. “He does not deny that he fired a shot. However, he did not know if he had killed this person, ”Viktor Ovsiannikov said during the trial. “If he had realized that, why would he give himself up?” he added.
According to Ovsiannikov, superiors ordered Shishimarin to shoot and he had to obey. “He was pressured by two people whom he perceived as his commanders in that circumstance,” he insisted. “He did not intend to kill him. His shots were not directed. He complied with the order, but not with the intention of killing a person, ”the lawyer continued. “I sincerely regret what I did. At that time he was nervous, there were hostilities. I didn’t want to kill. But it happened…” said Shishimarin, who apologized to the victim’s wife on several occasions. The soldier’s argument is that the man with the phone in his hand was trying to rat them out and they forced him to shoot, he said during the trial.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Shishimarin did not have to obey the orders of his fellow soldiers, as they were from another unit and he was not his subordinate. “There is no clause in Russia’s military regulations that says a soldier can kill a civilian,” prosecutor Yaroslav Ushiapivskii said. “Shishimarin realized that the order was to kill that man and he carried it out, firing his machine gun three or four times,” the prosecutor added. “He deliberately killed a civilian,” he continued. According to his lawyer, the soldier fired after twice refusing to comply with the order and only one of the four shots he had hit.
During the trial, Katerina, Shelipov’s widow, agreed with the prosecutors in asking for life in prison for the Russian soldier, but admitted one exception: “If they change him for the defenders of Mariupol,” she said, referring to the soldiers evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant days before, “I will not oppose”.
The convicted Russian soldier had been in the army for three years. As he explained, he was the oldest of five children and had signed a contract with the Russian armed forces to earn some money and help support a family that his mother raises alone. Originally from Irkutsk Oblast, near Mongolia, he aspired to soon leave the army and its headquarters in Moscow.
Precisely Russia said on Monday that it was concerned about the soldier’s fate and that it would look for options to defend him. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Russia “did not have the ability to protect its interests in person.” His lawyer announced that he will appeal the sentence and, if necessary, take Shishimarin’s case to a European court.
Ukraine accuses Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion, saying it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it had dispatched a team of 42 experts to investigate allegations of war crimes allegedly committed during the Russian invasion, the largest mission ever deployed by the ICC on the ground. .