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Ukraine to put Russian on trial for war crimes

May 12, 2022

Kyiv prosecutor Iryna Venediktova announced plans to hold the trial of a 21-year-old Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian. The soldier was allegedly told to shoot the victim in order to avoid detection.

A representational image of Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Peter Kovalev/TASS
About 10,700 alleged war crimes are being investigated by Venediktova's officeImage: Peter Kovalev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Ukraine's top prosecutor announced plans to hold the first war crimes trial over Russia's ongoing invasion.

The trial will bring to the stand Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian soldier, who has been accused of killing a 62-year-old man. He is currently in custody, and could face fifteen years imprisonment on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder.

Ukrainian counter-offensive

What do we know about the charges?

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova's office said in a statement on Wednesday that Shishimarin, who served with a tank unit, shot an automatic rifle from a car window at the civilian on February 28, just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. A photo of the soldier was also shared, said the AFP news agency. 

After his convoy was hit, Shishimarin and four other fleeing soldiers stole a car from outside the village of Chupakhivka. He attacked the 62-year-old, who was riding past them on a bicycle, to prevent him from reporting a group of soldiers. 

"One of the military servicemen ordered the accused to kill a civilian so that he would not report them. The man died on the spot just a few dozen meters from his home," said the statement. 

The Kyiv prosecutor's office did not share details of how the soldier came into Ukrainian custody, or what happened to the others in his group. The trial date was not specified either. 

Volodymyr Yavorskyy of the Center for Civil Liberties said the Ukrainian human rights group will be closely following the trial to see if it is fair. "It's very difficult to observe all the rules, norms and neutrality of the court proceedings in wartime," he said.

Baerbock: 'We must ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable'

More investigations into war crimes

Venediktova's office said it has been investigating more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects.

Many of the alleged atrocities came to light last month after Russian forces aborted their bid to capture Kyiv and withdrew from around the capital, exposing mass graves and streets and yards strewn with bodies in towns such as Bucha. Residents reported killings, burnings, rape, torture and dismemberment.

The UK and the Netherlands have sent war crimes investigators to Ukraine to assist local and International Criminal Court teams in probing possible mass atrocities. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock  has also called for prosecution of war criminals during her visit to Ukraine this week.

How did Germany get Russia so wrong?

tg/dj (AFP, AP)