Russian troops plead guilty to war crimes in Ukraine

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KYIV, Ukraine – MOSCOW – A 21-year-old Russian soldier facing trial for the first time since invading Ukraine has pleaded guilty on Wednesday to killing an unarmed civilian.

Vadim Shishimarin could be sentenced to life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern Sumi region on February 26, four days after the sergeant’s attack.

Shishimarin, a captive member of a Russian tank unit, was tried under a section of the Ukrainian Criminal Code that addresses the laws and customs of war.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova has previously said that her office was preparing war crimes charges against 41 Russian soldiers, including bombings of civilian infrastructure, killing of civilians, rape and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects were in Ukraine’s hands and how many would be tried in absentia.

As Ukraine’s inaugural war crimes case, Shishimarin’s trial was closely monitored. Investigators are gathering evidence of possible war crimes to bring him before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Venedictov’s office said it was 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 may have violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and abusing thousands of Ukrainian citizens.

Shishimarin’s trial began on Friday, when he appeared in a brief courtroom to discuss the matter with lawyers and judges. Ukrainian authorities posted some details from their investigation into his case on social media last week.

According to Venediktovar’s Facebook account, Shishimarin was among the Russian soldiers who fled Ukrainian forces on February 26. The Russians shot at a private car and seized it, then drove to the village of Chupakhivka, about 200 miles east of Kiev.

On the way, the prosecutor-general complained that Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk and talking on his phone. Shishimarin was ordered to kill the man so he could not report them to the Ukrainian military authorities. Venediktova did not identify who gave the instructions.

According to Venediktova, Shishimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle through an open window and hit the victim in the head.

“The man died on the spot just a few dozen meters from his home,” he said.

Ukraine’s security service, known as SBU, posted a short video of Shishimarin speaking in front of a camera on May 4 and briefly described how he shot the man. SBU described the video as “one of the first confessions of enemy attackers.”

“I was instructed to shoot,” Shishimarin said. “I shot him once. She falls. And we kept going. “

Russia is believed to be preparing for a war crimes trial for Ukrainian troops.

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