In the first judgement in a prosecution related to war crimes committed by the Russian army during its invasion of Ukraine, a Kyiv court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison for the killing of a Ukrainian civilian.
During the early days of the invasion, Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old sergeant, was found guilty of killing 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov in the Sumy district.
The judge, Serhii Ahafonov, delivered the verdict on Monday in front of a crowded courtroom with dozens of Ukrainian and foreign news cameras.
Despite Shishimarin’s cooperation with the investigation and expressions of regret, the judge ruled the court could not believe his claim that he did not intend to murder Shelipov when he fired at him.
Shishimarin, dressed in a grey and blue sweatshirt, bent his head as the judge read the lengthy verdict from the defendants’ glass box. A court-appointed translator provided him with a translation of the judge’s words from Ukrainian to Russian.
It’s the first of a slew of war crimes charges that Ukrainian prosecutors seek to get to trial as soon as possible. Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, has indicated she is preparing more than 40 war crimes cases that could go to trial soon, while Ukrainian authorities claim they have registered more than 10,000 war crimes across the country.
Legal experts warn that trying cases so rapidly while the fighting is still underway is uncommon and may violate sections of the Geneva treaties. Ukraine, on the other hand, has prioritised fast justice, partly as a reminder to Russian troops still occupying portions of the country that they would be held accountable for whatever crimes they commit.
Shishimarin was in a car with other Russian soldiers when one of them ordered him to shoot Shelipov because he had witnessed them shooting at a car and then taking it, according to prosecutors.
Shishimarin admitted to the murder, but his lawyer contended that his client was simply carrying out an order and had no intention of killing anyone. He only has 30 days to file an appeal.
Shishimarin’s mother, Lyubov, told the Russian independent news outlet Meduza that her son was a compassionate and gentle young man who joined the army partially because there were few opportunities in their hometown and partly to help support the family when his stepfather was killed last year.
“Mummy, I won’t have a telephone for a week, I have to give it up,” Shishimarin said he told her in late February. Do not believe anyone who claims I visited Ukraine.”
She discovered out he was a prisoner in Ukraine the next time she heard from him, she said.