Ukraine sentenced a Russian soldier to life imprisonment on Monday for killing an unarmed civilian, as the first war crimes trial arising from Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, came to an end. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, was found guilty of killing Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, days after the war broke out.
Shishimarin had pleaded guilty to his crime during his trial which commenced on May 13. A day after that, Ukrainian prosecutors urged judge Serhiy Agafonov to send him to prison for the rest of his life. On Monday Agafonov delivered his sentence. Shishimarin will now spend the rest of his life in a Ukrainian prison.
Punished for His Deeds
Shishimarin shot dead an unarmed Shelipov in the northeastern Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on February 28, four days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, after being ordered to shoot him.
Shishimarin fired several shots in the head of Shelipov, killing him instantly. Days later Shishimarin was arrested. Although he just followed the orders of a high-ranking Russian army officer, Shishimarin was found to be guilty of war crimes for killing a civilian.
"I acknowledge my guilt... I ask you to forgive me," Shishimarin told the widow Kateryna Shelipova during his trial last week.
On Monday, Shishimarin sat silently in a reinforced glass box in the courtroom, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, and showed no expression as the judgment was read out. He didn't react after the sentencing was done as the verdict was expected.
Shishimarin is the first Russian soldier to have been tried for war crimes and the first one to be sentenced. It is not known to which prison he will be transferred. His trial also marks the beginning of a long series of trials of Russian soldiers captured during the war who committed war crimes.
Paying for Putin's Mistakes
During Shishimarin's trial, the victim's widow, Shelipova, 62, told the court how she was distraught after hearing gunshots in the garden and calling for her husband, only to find Shishimarin with a gun and her husband's body.
Her husband, she stated, was a tractor driver who didn't have any guns. Shelipova said the loss of her husband is "everything for me, he was my protector."
She told the court that Shishimarin deserved a life sentence for killing her husband, but that she wouldn't object if he was traded for the surrendered Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.
She asked Shishimarin what he felt when he killed her husband. "Do you repent of this crime?" she asked.
Shishimarin told the court that he initially refused his immediate commanding officer's order to shoot the unarmed citizen, but that when the order was forcefully reiterated by another officer, he had no alternative but to do it.
The arrested member of a Russian tank regiment is being tried under the laws and customs of war part of the Ukrainian criminal code.
Shishimarin and several others will now have to pay with their lives for the decision made by Putin to invade Ukraine. The trial is also significant for Ukraine, which has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against people during the invasion and claims to have discovered over 10,000 potential war crimes.
Russia has, however, denied any involvement in war crimes or targeting of people.
The Kremlin did not respond to the verdict right away. It has previously stated that it has no knowledge of the trial and that its ability to assist is limited due to the lack of a diplomatic post in Ukraine.
"Of course we are concerned about the fate of our citizen, but, I repeat, we do not have the capacity to protect his interests in person," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
Two other Russian soldiers are also being tried in a court in the Kharkiv region for war crimes.