Ukraine Begins First War Crimes Trial

Ukraine began today the first trial for war crimes in a Kyiv court. The preliminary hearing was held today in a case against a 21-year-old Russian sergeant who is accused of killing a 62-year-old unarmed Ukrainian civilian. The soldier could be facing up to 10 to 15 years or life in prison, for violation of the laws and customs of war. 

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin is accused of killing a Ukrainian resident after shooting him in the head with an AK-74 rifle from an open window of a car, events that occurred in the city of Sumy on February 28. According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktov, the 62-year-old civilian was riding on his bike by the side of the road talking on the phone, and he was unarmed when he was shot and killed on the spot.  

This trial is potentially the first of many, as authorities are looking into thousands of war crimes that could have been committed by Russian troops during the invasion. During the hearing, Mr. Shishimarin appeared in a glass booth where he confirmed his identity and defended himself saying that he received orders to kill the civilian as he could betray his position to Ukrainian defenders. 

Meanwhile, Russia continues to deny civilian attacks or war crimes involvement and accuses Kyiv of organizing them to slander the Russian army. With regards to this trial, Kremlin authorities have refused to make any statements alleging they lack enough information about it. However, according to State Prosecutor Andriy Synuk, there is enough evidence to convict Shishimarin. He also told reporters that there would be many more cases to come.

The next hearing is scheduled to take place on May 18. In a release prior to the hearing, a Kyiv prosecuting agent also explained that the soldier also stole a vehicle from a private home to use as a getaway car with four other Russian soldiers after their spot was attacked by Ukrainian forces. 

United Nations Human Rights Official, Michelle Bachelet has confirmed that this case is the first in many possible war crimes since the Russian invasion and that to date, over 1,000 civilian bodies have been recovered so far in the region of Kyiv alone. Some of these people were killed in hostilities, others appear to have been summarily executed.

Furthermore, Ukraine has confirmed that at least 11,000 possible war crime cases are undergoing investigation. These investigations, like today’s trial, are independent of the International Criminal Court.

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