On Friday, a Ukrainian court held a preliminary hearing in the first war crimes case since the February 24 Russian invasion. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian soldier, is on trial for the murder of a 62-year-old unarmed civilian.
The case has great symbolic significance for Ukraine. The Kiev government accuses Russia of atrocities against civilians during the 11-week conflict and has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes involving more than 600 suspects. Russia, for its part, continues to deny that it targeted civilians in the so-called “special military operation” and accuses Kyiv of cheating to defame its forces. The Kremlin assured reporters on Friday that it had no record of a war crimes trial.
Dozens of journalists and cameras filled the small hall of Kyiv’s Solomensky District Court, where the defendant sat in a glassed-in area wearing a blue-gray hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants and a shaved head. His gaze is between lost and defiant. He faces life imprisonment under the section of the Ukrainian Criminal Code that deals with the laws and customs of war.
During a brief preliminary hearing, the defendant told the court that he was from the Irkutsk region of Russia and confirmed that he was a Russian military man. He was also asked if he understood his rights, calmly answering yes, and if he wanted a jury trial, which he declined. The court will resume work on May 18.
According to the prosecutor’s office, on February 28, the commander of the 4th Panzer Division of the Kantemirovskaya Guard of the Moscow Region, Shishimarin, killed an unarmed man riding a bicycle on the road in the city of Chupaevka. After the attack by the Ukrainian army, the convoy, which included the commander, was disbanded, and the accused in the company of four more servicemen fled in a civilian car seized by force.
Arriving in Chupaevka, they met the victim, who was talking on the phone, and Shishimarin shot him in the head with an AK-47 machine gun through the car window so that he would not betray them to the Ukrainian military. It is reported that the crime took place near the home of the victim.
Shishimarin’s lawyer, Viktor Ovsyanikov, acknowledged that the case against the soldier was serious, but said the court had yet to decide what evidence to accept. Your client has not yet decided whether to plead guilty or not guilty. According to Ukrainian prosecutors, the defendant confessed to the crime on tape, but said he did so on the orders of another unidentified serviceman. The video was released on May 4 by the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, showing the defendant speaking to the camera. The SBU described the video as “one of the first confessions of the enemy occupiers.” “I was ordered to shoot,” Shishimarin admits. Ukrainian prosecutors have not said how the Russian soldier was arrested or what evidence supports the case other than the confession.
they ordered me to shoot
The Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties said it would closely monitor Shishimarin’s trial to make sure it was fair. “It is very difficult to comply with all the rules, regulations and neutrality of trials during the war,” said Vladimir Yavorsky, a member of this structure. This will determine how similar cases will be handled in the future, he continued. Many more trials are expected to follow, state prosecutor Andrei Sinyuk told reporters after today’s hearing.
“It is amazing that a war crimes suspect was found in such a short time and brought to trial, usually in his absence,” Jaworski said. According to Yavorsky, Russia is preparing similar tests for Ukrainian soldiers.
Vadim Karasev, an independent political analyst based in Kyiv, said it was important for the Ukrainian authorities to “show that war crimes will be solved and those responsible will be brought to justice in accordance with international standards.” Ukrainian investigators are gathering evidence of the thousands of possible war crimes recorded to date to present to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
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