A Russian soldier charged with the murder of an elderly civilian in Ukraine will appear in a Kiev court on Friday in the first war crimes trial since the brutal invasion of Moscow began in February.
Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, is accused of shooting dead the unarmed 62-year-old Ukrainian in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka in Sumy Oblast. According to Ukrainian law, he faces life imprisonment.
Victor Ovsyanikov, who is defending himself, has acknowledged the case against the alleged killer is strong but said the final decision on what evidence to admit has yet to be made by the court.
Ovsyanikov said that he and the defendant have not yet decided how he will plead.
The trial of Shyshimarin, a captured member of a tank unit, comes as Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova conducts an ever-growing body of investigations into allegations that President Vladimir Putin’s forces have killed, tortured and ill-treated civilians.
Her office said it is investigating more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.
Revelations of alleged massacres of civilians began to circulate after Russia withdrew its troops from north-eastern Ukraine after unsuccessfully attempting to capture the capital.
Bucha, a town about 25 km (15.5 miles) west of Kyiv, was among the first areas to draw international condemnation and shame after images of mass graves and streets strewn with bodies emerged.
As the first war crimes case in Ukraine, all eyes are on Shyshimarin’s indictment.
One of Ukraine’s largest human rights groups has announced activists will monitor the trial of the Russian soldier to ensure his legal rights are protected. It can be difficult, he said, to maintain the neutrality of judicial proceedings during wartime.
Compliance with the rules and norms of the process “will determine how similar cases will be treated in the future,” said Volodymyr Yavorskyy, coordinator of the Center for Civil Liberties in Kyiv.
Vadim Karasev, an independent political scientist from Kyiv, said it was important for the Ukrainian authorities to “show that the war crimes are being solved and those responsible are being brought to justice in accordance with international standards”.
Over the past week, Venediktova, her office and the Security Service of Ukraine, the country’s law enforcement agency, posted some details from the investigation into Shyshimarin’s actions on their social media accounts.
On February 28, four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Shyshimarin was among a group of Russian troops defeated by Ukrainian forces, according to Venediktova’s report.
While fleeing, the Russians are said to have shot at a private car and confiscated the vehicle. They then drove to Chupahivka, a village in the Sumy region some 200 miles east of Kyiv.
On the way, Venediktova said, the Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk talking on his phone. Shyshimarin was ordered to kill the man so he could not report her to the Ukrainian military authorities. She does not identify who gave the order.
Shyshimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle through the open window, hitting the victim in the head.
“The man died on the spot, just a few tens of meters from his home,” Venediktova wrote.
The Security Service of Ukraine, known as SBU, released a short video on May 4 in which Shyshimarin speaks on camera and briefly describes how he shot the man.
The SBU described the video as “one of the first confessions by the enemy invaders.”
“I was ordered to shoot,” said Shyshimarin, who was wearing a blue and gray hooded sweatshirt. “I shot one (round) at him. He falls. And we kept going.”
With additional reporting from AP
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-russian-war-crimes-trial-soldier-b2078170.html Ukraine: Russian soldier stands trial in first war crimes trial