A Russian soldier has been sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian in Ukraine’s first war crime trial arising from Russia’s invasion.
The 21-year-old tank commander, Vadim Shishimarin, had pleaded guilty to killing the 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov in a northeastern Ukrainian village four days after the invasion.
Upon seeing Shelipov ride his bicycle and talk on the phone, Shishimarin was ordered to kill Shelipov to prevent him from reporting on their location, the prosecutors said.
Carrying out a "criminal order" by a soldier of higher rank, Shishimarin shot a 62-year-old civilian in the head with an automatic weapon.
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In court last week, Shishimarin acknowledged he was to blame and asked the victim’s widow, Kateryna Shalipova, to forgive him. “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he said, according to BBC.
The court has said it does not see the possibility of imposing a shorter sentence, “given that the crime committed is a crime against peace, security, humanity and the international legal order”.
Shishmarin’s lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, was unsurprised by the sentence due to “certain pressures from society” and will launch a legal appeal.
The trial, which began only last week, has huge symbolic significance for Ukraine and an international lawyer told Reuters it could be the first of many.
The EU has also warned that war crimes in Ukraine will not go unpunished, as 11 EU member States are conducting inquiries into war crimes in Ukraine and 600 suspects have already been identified.
Ukraine has accused Russia of more than 10,000 possible war crimes, including atrocities and brutality against civilians.
Russia denies any wrong-doing such as targeting civilians or involved in war crimes, while it continues to refer to its invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation”. The Kremlin has not yet commented on Shishmarin’s verdict.