Russian soldier accused of war crimes in Ukraine pleads guilty to killing civilian

A 21 year old Russian soldier faces first war crimes trial since Moscow invasion Ukraine pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian.
Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin could face life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeast Sumy region on February 28, four days after the start of the invasion.
Shyshimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, was prosecuted under a section of Ukraine’s criminal code that deals with the laws and customs of war.
Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, is seen behind glass during a court hearing in Kyiv on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) (AP)

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, raping and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many suspects were in Ukrainian hands and how many would be tried in absentia.

As Ukraine’s first war crimes case, the prosecution of Shyshimarin was closely watched. Investigators have gathered evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Venediktova’s office said it was investigating more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.

Shyshimarin speaks with his translator, center right, during the hearing. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) (AP)

With the help of foreign experts, prosecutors are investigating allegations that Russian troops violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and ill-treating possibly thousands of Ukrainian civilians.

Shyshimarin’s trial opened on Friday, when he made a brief appearance in court while lawyers and judges discussed procedural issues. Ukrainian authorities posted some details of their investigation into his case on social media last week.

The soldier was part of a group of Russian soldiers who fled from Ukrainian forces on February 28, according to Venediktova’s Facebook account.

The Russians reportedly fired on a private car and seized the vehicle, then drove to Chupakhivka, a village about 290 kilometers east of kyiv.

Along the way, according to the prosecutor general, the Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk and talking on the phone.

Shyshimarin was ordered to kill the man so he could not report them to Ukrainian military authorities. Venediktova did not identify who gave the order.

Shyshimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle through the open window and hit the victim in the head, Venediktova wrote.

“The man died instantly a few dozen meters from his home,” she said.

Ukraine’s Security Service, known as the SBU, released a short video May 4 of Shyshimarin speaking on camera and briefly describing how he shot the man.

The SBU described the video as “one of the first confessions by enemy invaders”.

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“I was ordered to shoot,” Shyshimarin said. “I shot him. He falls. And we kept going.”

Russia is reportedly preparing war crimes trials for Ukrainian soldiers.

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