In the first war crimes trial stemming from Russia’s invasion, a Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in jail on Monday for murdering an unarmed civilian.
Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, pled guilty to murdering 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov on Feb. 28, four days after the invasion, in the northeastern Ukrainian hamlet of Chupakhivka.
Shishimarin, according to Judge Serhiy Agafonov, fired six rounds at the victim’s head with an automatic weapon while carrying out a criminal command from a higher-ranking soldier.
Shishimarin sat calmly in a reinforced glass box in the courtroom, wearing a blue and gray hooded sweatshirt, and showed no expression as the judgment was read out. He listened to a translator with his head bent.
Viktor Ovsyannikov, Shishimarin’s lawyer, said he was not shocked by the punishment due to societal pressure, and that he will file a legal appeal.
The trial, which began only last week, has enormous symbolic value for Ukraine, and an international lawyer told Reuters that it may be the first of many.
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and violence against people during the invasion, claiming that over 10,000 suspected war crimes have been found. While conducting what it terms a special military operation in Ukraine, Russia has denied targeting people or committing war crimes.
The Kremlin did not respond to the ruling right away. It has previously stated that it has no knowledge of the trial and that its capacity to help is limited due to the lack of a diplomatic post in Ukraine.
Shishimarin and four other Russian personnel allegedly stole a vehicle to flee after their column was attacked by Ukrainian forces, according to Ukrainian state prosecutors.
The troops noticed Shelipov riding a bicycle and conversing on his phone after driving into Chupakhivka. According to the authorities, Shishimarin was told to kill Shelipov in order to prevent him from reporting on their whereabouts.
Shishimarin admitted his fault in court last week and begged the victim’s widow to forgive him.
The court handed down its decision five days after the first full hearing.
The ruling, according to Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, was not unexpected and might represent the first piece of a larger jigsaw involving Ukrainian troops jailed in Russia.