In February 2022, the Russian government commanded troops to invade Ukraine, an invasion that has caused Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since the second world war.
Now, a court in Ukraine has now made the first war crimes trial since the invasion began. Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian Soldier has been sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian. According to the accused, he did not want to kill the victim but he was acting on orders from a superior.
“I sincerely repent. I was nervous at the time, I did not want to kill … that’s how it happened,” He told the court in Kyiv.
“I’m truly and sincerely sorry. I didn’t want that to happen, I didn’t want to be there, but it happened. I would like to apologize once again. And I will accept all the measures of punishment that I will be offered.”
Shishimarin, a tank commander, pleaded guilty to killing Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old civilian who was apparently riding his bicycle, in the north-east Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka.
According to the defence lawyer, the accused only fired his weapon after twice refusing to carry out the order to shoot. He added that his client only shot out of fear of his own safety.
Shishimarin told the court that he was ordered to shoot because Shelipov was talking on a cellphone and the soldiers feared he would report their location after they had fled a nearby battle in a stolen car.
This is the first of multiple alleged war crimes being investigated by Ukraine. However, Russia has denied all claims that its troops targeted civilians during the invasion even though Ukraine says more than 11,000 crimes may have occurred.
This trial is being seen as Ukraine’s chance to prove, beyond doubt, that a Russian soldier killed a civilian with no regard for the rules of war.