First Russian war crimes heard by court

A Ukrainian court began hearing the first war crimes case arising from Russia's February 24 invasion, after charging a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian.

Being of tremendous symbolic importance, the case was viewed by the Kyiv district court after the Ukrainian government had accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion, saying it had identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Unsurprisingly, Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes and accused Kyiv of staging them to smear its forces. Moscow’s attempts to whitewash itself off the blood of thousands of civilians, including children and the elderly, have been time and again compromised.

As for the soldier, the Kyiv district court's website identified him on trial as Vadim Shishimarin and said he was accused of “violations of the laws and norms of war”.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said the defendant was a 21-year-old soldier in the Kantemirovskaya tank division from the Moscow region.

The man may spend the rest of his life in prison if he is proved guilty of the killing in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka, east of the capital Kyiv, on February 28.

Reuters wrote it could not reach the soldier for comment. “It was unclear whether he would appear in court or who would defend him,” the news agency said.

Evidence gathered by the prosecutor general’s office showed that the soldier stole a privately-owned car to escape with four other Russian servicemen after their column was targeted by Ukrainian forces. As recounted in the statement, the Russian soldiers drove into the village of Chupakhivka where they spotted an unarmed resident riding a bicycle and talking on his phone.

Supposedly, the suspect was ordered to kill the civilian to prevent him from reporting on the Russians' presence. The man obeyed the order firing several shots through the open window of the car with an assault rifle at the civilian's head. The 62-year-old man died on the spot.

Information on how the soldier was captured was not made public. More insight into the evidence that led to the war crimes charges was also unavailable, according to Reuters.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted the investigation into the case, the statement said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday there were many examples of possible war crimes since the Russian invasion and that 1,000 bodies had been recovered so far in the Kyiv region .

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on April 25 that it would take part in a joint team with Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian prosecutors investigating war crimes allegations against Russian forces.

Calling its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” designed to disarm the country and protect it from fascists, Russia continues to shamelessly deny any crimes committed by its forces. Kyiv and its Western allies say the fascism claim is a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.