Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing of Ukrainian civilian during the early days of invasion

A 21-year-old Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian in the first trial since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Sargent Vadim Shishimarin could get life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the north-eastern Sumy region on February 28, four days into the invasion.

Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, was prosecuted under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova had previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offensures that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are in Ukrainian hands or how many would be tried in absentia.

a small courtroom.  men is suits sit around the room.  in a transparent box, the russian sits, leaning forward
It is not yet known how many Russian Ukrainian soldiers have captured to face trial.(AP: Efrem Lukatsky)

As the first case for crimes committed during the war in Ukraine, Shishimarin’s prosecution was being watched closely.

Investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Ms Venediktova’s office said it was looking into more than 10,700 potential crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.

With the help of foreign experts, prosecutors are investigating allegations that Russian troops violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and abusing possibly thousands of Ukrainian civilians.

Shishimarin was among a group of Russian troops that fled Ukrainian forces on February 28, according to Ms Venediktova.

The Russians allegedly fired at a private car and seized the vehicle, then drove to Chupakhivka, a village about 320 kilometers east of Kyiv.

On the way, the prosecutor-general alleged, the Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the footpath and talking on his phone.

Shishimarin was ordered to kill the man so he would not be able to report them to the Ukrainian military authorities. Ms Venediktova did not identify who gave the order.

Shishimarin fired his gun through the open window and hit the victim in the head, Ms Venediktova wrote.

Russian soldier is seen behind a glass during a court hearing
Shishimarin said his unit seized a car to flee Ukrainian forces near Kyiv.(AP: Efrem Lukatsky)

The Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, posted a short video on May 4 of Shishimarin speaking in front of the camera and briefly describing how he shot the man.

The SBU described the video as “one of the first confessions of the enemy invaders”.

“I was ordered to shoot,” Shishimarin said.

Russia is believed to be preparing war crime trials for Ukrainian soldiers.

Russians say senior Ukrainian commanders still in Azovstal

Ukrainian servicemen leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in a long line as the burnt out plant is seen in the background.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said 694 more Ukrainian fighters had surrendered.(AP: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

Hundreds more Ukrainian fighters have emerged from the ruins of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol but the top ranking commanders are reportedly continuing to hold out.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday said 694 more Ukrainian fighters – including members of the Azov regiment – had surrendered, including 29 wounded.

As the most devastating siege in Russia’s invasion moves towards a finale, that brings to nearly 1,000 the number of Ukrainian fighters who have so far given themselves up to Russian and pro-Russian forces since Monday.

However, it remained unclear if the top commanders would leave the plant, or possibly even fight a last mortal battle with the Russian forces they regard as occupiers of their country.

“There are no commanders of the highest level [among those who surrendered] – they have not left, “said Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic which was officially recognized by President Vladimir Putin just three days before the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen carry a wounded comrade after they left the besieged Azovstal steel plant.
Among those who surrendered were 29 injured fighters, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.(AP: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

“That is – so far,” Mr Pushilin, who along with Russian forces controls Mariupol, was quoted as saying by the Donetsk News Agency.

It was unclear what would happen to the fighters who were cast by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as heroic resistance fighters but who Russian lawmakers said were “Nazi criminals” who should face the gravest punishment.

Surrendered fighters to face court

A Russian serviceman frisks a Ukrainian soldier wearing an eye patch.
Russia said the Ukrainians that have surrendered will face court.(AP: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

Mr Pushilin said the fate of the surrendered Ukrainian fighters would be decided by the courts.

Moscow says the Azov Regiment, which began as an extreme-right nationalist paramilitary organization, is a group of radically anti-Russian nationalist fighters and casts them as neo-Nazis.

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