Vadim Shishimarin war crimes trial: Russian troops ask victim’s family

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As the trial of two other Russian soldiers begins in central Ukraine, a Russian soldier apologized to the widow of a Ukrainian civilian killed in a dramatic Kyiv court session on Thursday.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier to face a war crimes trial in Ukraine, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the country’s Sumi region. He is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors argue that Shishimarin, 21, who appeared intimidated, violated Ukraine’s war crimes law when he fired multiple rounds from his Kalashnikov rifle at Alexander Shepilov, who was pushing his bicycle near the village of Chupakhivka in late February.

An official attorney said the sergeant was part of a group of five soldiers who fled a nearby car in a stolen car. Shishimarin said he was instructed by other soldiers to shoot the man because the man was talking on his phone and they were afraid he would reveal their whereabouts.

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According to Ukrainian media reports, “Ensine Kafurov ordered the firing,” Shishimarin told the court. “I refused. Then another soldier instructed me to shoot in a threatening tone,” he said [Shepilov] Will betray us. I fired a small explosion. “

The family confronted Shishimarin on Thursday as he sat in a glass defendant’s cell.

In return, the man’s widow, Katrina Shepilova, asked him, “Please tell me, how did you feel about my husband?” Shishimarin replied: “Yes, I plead guilty. I understand you can’t forgive me. I apologize for the inconvenience. “

Shepilova said: “Why did you come to us? You came to save us? From whom? You ‘saved’ me from my husband, whom you killed.”

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“I received an order from our command to move as part of the column,” Shishimarin said. “And what would happen outside of that, I didn’t know.”

Earlier, Shepilova described the trauma of her husband rushing in and finding her dead. He identified Shishimarin as present at the scene.

According to experts, acting on orders does not exempt individual soldiers from liability for war crimes. International law prohibits deliberate targeting of civilians. It is more common to successfully try lower-ranking soldiers than commanders or top officials who can easily avoid arrest.

“It doesn’t look like a complicated trial,” said William Shabas, a professor of international law at Middlesex University in London, especially since Shishimarin pleaded guilty.

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Legal experts say that so far, Ukraine seems to be following the right procedure in the trial.

The widow asked the court to sentence her to life in prison, the maximum punishment for these charges, but she said she would support being part of a prisoner exchange for some Ukrainian soldiers who are in Russian custody after their month-long Mariupol defense. Steel plant.

“I think life imprisonment,” he said when asked for his opinion. “But if they exchange him for our Mariupol defenders … I won’t be against it.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday that it had collected information on hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war who surrendered through negotiations at the Azovostal steel plant in Mariupol this week. The troops were taken to Russian-controlled territory, and the Russian Defense Ministry posted a video Wednesday stating that several hospitalized detainees had been shown that they were being treated well.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said this week that prisoners from Mariupol would be exchanged with Russian prisoners of war “once their condition stabilizes.” But Russian and separatist officials on Wednesday expressed skepticism about that possibility, with some suggesting that Ukrainian fighters could face trial.

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Under international law, prisoners of war cannot be tried for involvement in war. They may be tried for war crimes, but it is not uncommon for court proceedings to begin in a conflict. It may be convenient to do so, since the evidence is fresh, legal experts say. Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Irina Venediktova, called Shishimarin’s trial “just the beginning of a long and complicated process of bringing the perpetrators to justice and restoring justice to the victims.”

“Through this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every criminal, every person who directed or assisted crime in Ukraine will not be held liable,” Venediktova said. Wrote on Twitter Monday.

But politics could influence the decision to pursue lawsuits, Shabas told the Washington Post. Concerns about the hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers facing trial in Russia, where the highly politicized legal system has a conviction rate of more than 99 percent, could make Ukrainian officials hesitant to press for further trials.

So far, however, there have been no signs of a slowdown in Ukraine’s efforts to bring Russian troops to justice. A district court in the Poltava region on Thursday heard a case against two Russian soldiers accused of war crimes for firing on civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region, according to a statement released by the Kharkiv regional prosecutor on Thursday.

Prosecutors say a pair of soldiers fired a Russian truck-mounted rocket launcher – one man allegedly drove, the other shot – which hit and hit a civilian target in the Kharkiv region.

The statement added that the soldiers had fully admitted their guilt. The next hearing in the case is set for May 26.

According to Venediktova, Ukraine is currently investigating more than 11,000 war crimes cases, including 40 suspects. The International Criminal Court and the United Nations have launched separate investigations into possible human rights abuses and war crimes in Ukraine.

Annabel Chapman, David L. Stern, Ellen Francis, and Reiss Thebelt contributed to this report.

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