War crimes trial Vadim Shishimarin: Russian soldier sentenced to life imprisonment in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial

The soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old civilian on the fourth day of the conflict, in late February.

Before issuing the verdict on Monday, the court said Shishimarin had “committed a criminal offense” under international humanitarian law.

†[Shishimarin] saw a civilian on the sidewalk, Oleksandr Shelipov,” the court said. “Shishimarin knows that Shelipov is a civilian and is unarmed and poses no threat to him. He fired several shots at Shelipov from his AK cannon.”

“Shelipov’s cause of death was a gunshot to the head that resulted in the skull being crushed,” the court added. The judgment can be appealed within 30 days.

Prosecutor Andriy Sunyuk pointed to the possibility of more war crimes trials against Russian troops, and said he hoped the conviction of Shishimarin could send a message.

“I think all other law enforcement agencies will follow the path we’ve been on,” he said.

“This will set a good example for other occupiers who may not be in our territory yet, but are planning to come,” Sunyuk added. “Or for those who are here now and intend to stay and fight. Or maybe they’ll think it’s time to leave here for their own territory.’

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin is “concerned” about Shishimarin and will look for ways to help him.

“Of course we are concerned about the fate of our citizens,” Peskov told reporters during a regular conference call.

“We don’t have a lot of options to protect his interests on the ground, as foreign institutions don’t really have any activity.” [in Kyiv]† But this does not mean that we are not considering the possibility of making attempts through other channels,” Peskov added, without clarifying which channels he was referring to.

Peskov previously said Russia finds the charges “unacceptable”, “outrageous” and “staged”.

Speaking Friday, Shishimarin acknowledged he was responsible for the murder, but “sorry and sincerely regret.”

“I was nervous the moment it happened. I didn’t want to kill. But it happened and I’m not denying it,” he said.

Shishimarin’s lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, argued that although his client was guilty of murder, it was not murder.

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“Shishimarin was in a state of stress caused by the combat situation and the pressure of his commander. Analysis of those circumstances allows me to conclude that Shishimarin had no direct intention with the assassination,” Ovsyannikov said.

Ovsyannikov tried to portray his client and other Russian troops as unwitting pawns in the Kremlin’s Machiavellian plan.

The soldiers, Ovsyannikov said, were unaware that their actions “would lead to mass deaths not only of soldiers but also civilians”.

Shishimarin, who appeared in the courtroom behind glass with a bluish-grey top and a shaved head, spoke only a few times during the proceedings.

He said he was “fully guilty” when he pleaded Wednesday and Thursday he was forced to confront his victim’s widow.

Shishimarin said to her, “I understand you can’t forgive me, but I’m sorry.”

The woman asked the Russian soldier why he came to Ukraine and asked rhetorically, “Have you come to defend us? From whom? Did you defend me against my husband whom you killed?”

“We were ordered to come with the motorcade, I did not know what will follow,” said Shishimarin.

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