Russian Soldier Pleads Guilty to Killing Unarmed Ukrainian Civilian: NPR

Russian Army Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind glass during a court hearing in kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Shishimarin pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian.

Efrem Lukatsky / AP


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Efrem Lukatsky / AP


Russian Army Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind glass during a court hearing in kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Shishimarin pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian.

Efrem Lukatsky / AP

KYIV, Ukraine — A 21-year-old Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since Moscow invaded Ukraine pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing an unarmed civilian.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin could face life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, four days after the invasion.

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

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova earlier said her office was preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for crimes that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.

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

Prosecutors plan to continue to present evidence against Shishimarin after his guilty plea, although the trial will be shorter.

As the inaugural war crimes case in Ukraine, the Shishimarin prosecution was being closely watched. Investigators have been gathering evidence of possible war crimes to present before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Venediktova’s office has said it is investigating more than 10,700 possible war 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 possibly abusing thousands of Ukrainian civilians.

Shishimarin’s trial began on Friday, when he made a brief court appearance as lawyers and judges discussed procedural matters. After his guilty plea on Wednesday, the proceedings continued until Thursday, when the trial is expected to resume in a large room to accommodate more journalists.

Ukrainian authorities published some details on social media last week about their investigation into his case.

This is how the incident unfolded, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor.

Shishimarin was among a group of Russian troops who fled from Ukrainian forces on February 28, according to Venediktova’s Facebook account. The Russians allegedly fired on a private car and commandeered the vehicle, then drove to Chupakhivka, a town about 200 miles east of kyiv.

Along the way, the attorney general alleged, the Russian soldiers saw a man walking down the sidewalk and talking on the phone. Shishimarin was ordered to kill the man so that he could not report him to the Ukrainian military authorities. Venediktova did not identify who gave the order.

Shishimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle through the open window, hitting the victim in the head, Venediktova wrote.

“The man died at the scene a few dozen meters from his house,” he said.

The Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, released a short video on May 4 of Shishimarin speaking on 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. “I shot one (round) at it. It goes down. And we’re moving on.”

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

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