Ukraine war: Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing civilian at first war crimes trial in Kyiv
- Asked in court if he was guilty of the allegations, including war crimes and premeditated murder, 21-year-old sergeant Vadim Shishimarin responded ‘yes’
- He is accused of killing a man on a bicycle in Ukraine on February 28. ‘I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell and we continued our journey’, he said
The first Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine for war crimes during Moscow’s invasion pleaded guilty on Wednesday, facing possible life imprisonment in Kyiv.
Asked in court if he was guilty of the allegations, including war crimes and premeditated murder, 21-year-old sergeant Vadim Shishimarin responded “yes”.
He is accused of killing a 62-year-old civilian in northeast Ukraine in the first days of the Kremlin’s offensive.
Shishimarin – from the Siberian region of Irkutsk – sat in the glass defendant’s box in a Kyiv district court, wearing a blue and grey hoodie.
The youthful-looking soldier with a shaved head looked towards the ground as a prosecutor read out charges against him in Ukrainian. An interpreter was translating for him into Russian.
He is accused of killing the civilian – allegedly on a bicycle – near the village of Chupakhivka in the eastern Sumy region on February 28.
Prosecutors say Shishimarin was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack. He and four other soldiers stole a car, and as they travelled near Chupakhivka they encountered a 62-year-old man on a bicycle, they said.
According to prosecutors, Shishimarin was ordered to kill the civilian and used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to do so. He explained his actions saying: “I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell and we continued our journey.”
In early May, Ukrainian authorities announced his arrest without giving details, while publishing a video in which Shishimarin said he had come to fight in Ukraine to “support his mother financially”.
The Kremlin earlier said it was not informed about the case. “We still have no information. And the ability to provide assistance due to the lack of our diplomatic mission there is also very limited,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The trial, expected to be followed rapidly by others, will test the Ukrainian justice system at a time when international institutions are conducting their own investigations into abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces.
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor Iryna Venediktova had underlined the importance of the case for her country in a series of tweets. “We have over 11,000 ongoing cases of war crimes and already 40 suspects,” she said.
“By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility.”
Oleksandr Pavlichenko, the head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group for Human Rights, said that in the Shishimarin case “the motivation is not only legal, but political as well.”
What is at stake, he said, is whether Ukraine “will have a real judicial process or just a play for the public”. This will depend, Pavlichenko said, on Shishimarin’s fate after the verdict: whether he will serve a sentence in Ukraine or be exchanged in a prisoner swap.
Two other Russian servicemen are due to go on trial in Ukraine on Thursday for firing rockets at civilian infrastructure in the north-eastern Kharkiv region.