A court in Kyiv has sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison for killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial held since Russia’s invasion.
Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov, a Ukrainian civilian, in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.
“The court has found that Shishimarin is guilty and sentences him to life imprisonment,” judge Sergiy Agafonov said on Monday, in the war-torn country’s capital, Al Jazeera reports.
“The murder was committed with direct intent.”
The Russian soldier, who pleaded guilty, told the court last week that he shot Shelipov under pressure from another soldier as they tried to retreat and escape back to Russia in a stolen car on February 28, the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion.
In his closing remarks, he apologised and asked Shelipov’s widow for forgiveness.
“I regret it. I regret it very much. I did not refuse and I am ready to accept any measures imposed,” he said.
He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.
The serviceman, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings silently from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom and showed no emotion as the verdict was read out in Ukrainian.
An interpreter translated for him into Russian.
Shishimarin’s lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, said he will appeal the verdict, and has 30 days to do so.
“This is the most severe sentence and any level-headed person would challenge it,” Ovsyannikov, said following the court session, adding, “I will ask for the cancellation of the court’s verdict”.
He said that “you can feel societal pressure” on the decision of the court.
The Kremlin said before the sentencing that while it was “concerned” over Shishimarin’s fate, it was unable to provide on-the-ground assistance because there is no Russian diplomatic presence in Ukraine.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t try through other channels. The fate of every Russian citizen is of paramount importance to us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The landmark ruling has symbolic significance for Ukraine, which has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the war and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.
Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.