Ukraine conflict: Russian soldier pleads guilty in war crimes trial

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

Vadim Shishimarin admitted shooting a 62-year-old man a few days after the invasion began. He faces life in jail.

The prisoner was brought into the tiny Kyiv courtroom in handcuffs, flanked by heavily armed guards. He looked nervous, and kept his head bowed.

Just a couple of metres from him, the widow of the man killed was sitting.

She wiped tears from her eyes as the soldier entered court, then sat with hands clasped as the prosecutor set out his case, describing the moment Kateryna’s husband was shot in the head.

“Do you accept your guilt?” the judge asked. “Yes,” Shishimarin replied.

“Totally?””Yes,” he replied quietly from behind the glass of his grey metal-and-glass cage.

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 the 62-year-old on a bicycle, they said.

According to prosecutors, Shishimarin was ordered to kill the civilian and used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to do so.

The Kremlin said earlier it was not informed about the case.

Shishimarin’s trial was adjourned shortly after the civilian’s widow heard for the first time the Russian soldier admitted to the murder. This high profile hearing will restart on Thursday in a larger courtroom.

Kateryna, the 62 year-old’s widow, spoke to the BBC before she left the court for the day.

She was asked about how she was coping.

Kateryna said: “I feel very sorry for him. But for a crime like that – I can’t forgive him.”

“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,” Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, tweeted.

Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers.

Moscowhad denied its troops targeted civilians.

Shishimarin’s trial was being watched closely because investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. -BBC

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