In Ukraine's first war crimes trial since Russia's invasion, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was convicted of killing an unarmed civilian yesterday, and he was given a life sentence in prison.
Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin pleaded guilty last week to killing a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the north-eastern Sumy area but claimed he was following orders. A court in Kyiv has now handed down its judgment.
According to Ukraine's penal code, he was found guilty of premeditated murder and breaking "the rules and customs of war."
During the early days of the invasion in late February, Shishimarin acknowledged fatally shooting Oleksandr Shelipov, who was pushing his bicycle near the village of Chupakhivka, close to the Russian border.
According to the prosecutor general of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova, Mr. Shelipov "died on the spot just a few meters from his home."
The punishment for Shishimarin's charge of "violation of the rules and customs of war" ranged from 10 years to life in prison. His attorney informed the local press that he intended to appeal the verdict.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, stated that Russia was "concerned" about Shishimarin and would evaluate its possibilities to safeguard the soldier's interests.
Peskov stated, "Of course, we care about the fate of our citizens." Unfortunately, we cannot protect his interests on the ground.
"This is due to the de facto inability of our institutions [in Ukraine] to function." However, this does not mean that we will cease to investigate ways to continue our work via other avenues."
Last Monday, the widow of Mr. Shelipov stated that she wished for Shishimarin to be sentenced to life in jail but would be open to exchange for Ukrainian fighters who were transferred to Russian-held territory from the Mariupol Azovstal complex.
Shishimarin's face appeared blank during the hearing, and his eyes were downcast as he listened to his interpreter.
The 21-year-old wore a blue and grey sweatshirt and barely glanced up as Judge Sergey Agafonov pronounced his punishment.
Prosecutors contended that Shishimarin, a member of Russia's 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya tank division, committed a war crime by firing at Mr. Shelipov with his rifle.
Shishimarin stated that his other soldiers instructed him to shoot Mr. Shelipov because the man was using a cell phone. They worried he would reveal their whereabouts after escaping a nearby conflict in a stolen vehicle.
A Ukrainian court-appointed attorney for Shishimarin stated that the evidence against his client was substantial.
Victor Ovsyanikov, Shishimarin's attorney, told the New York Times that it was necessary to protect Shishimarin's human rights to demonstrate that Ukraine is "a different country from the one he is from."
Shishimarin stated that he did not intend to kill Mr. Shelipov and only opened fire because he was told to.
According to Reuters, Mr. Ovsyanikov stated that Shishimarin feared for his safety if he did not comply and that the rounds he fired were random.
Mr. Ovsyanikov stated, "In my opinion, it should not be this young man on trial, but rather the senior leadership of the other country, which I believe is responsible for igniting this war."
Mr. Ovsyanikov informed the press yesterday that he intends to challenge the judges' decision.
"Before applying to the European Court of Human Rights, we must exhaust all appeals in national courts," he explained.
Throughout the invasion, Moscow has had to handle young, inexperienced troops with low morale and a lack of commitment to the purpose.