UkraineCourt begins pre-trial hearing today, asRussiaFor the first time since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, a Russian soldier has been tried for the murder of a 62-year-old unarmed civilian on suspicion of war crimes.
The matter is of great symbolic importance for Ukraine, alleges the Kyiv government.RussiaIt has committed brutal atrocities against civilians during the invasion of Ukraine and says more than 10,000 war crimes have been identified.
Russia denies targeting civilians or engaging in war crimes and has accused the Kyiv authorities of fabricating everything to smear the Russian military. The Kremlin told reporters today that it had no comment on the war crimes trial.
The defendant explained in a brief preliminary hearing that he was born in Vadim Shishmarin, in the Irkutsk region of Russia, and confirmed that he was a Russian soldier. The judge said there would be another hearing on May 18.
The website of the Kyiv District Court said that Shichmarin was accused of “violating the laws and norms of war”.
His lawyer said the court would be informed later that the client has pleaded not guilty.
Shihmarin, with a flat head and a blue-gray casual cap, was taken to a dock separated by glass in the courtroom, looking very frightened by the police.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said Shishmarin, 21, was a tank commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division in the Moscow region.
He is accused of hitting an unarmed 62-year-old resident several times in his car with a Kalashnikov assault rifle in a village in northeastern Ukraine’s Sumy region on February 28. If convicted, Shihmarin could face life in prison.
The prosecutor general’s office said in a statement ahead of the trial that Shichmarin and four other Russian soldiers tried to escape in a stolen private car after their unit was targeted by Ukrainian forces.
The statement said they drove to the small town of Chupkhivka and saw an unarmed civilian on a bicycle and talking on the phone.
Another soldier ordered the defendant to shoot the civilian so that he would not report seeing the Russian military, the statement said. The defendant used an assault rifle and shot the victim several times in the head through an open car window, killing the victim at the scene.
The statement did not say how Shihmarin was arrested or details the evidence against the war crime charges.
The Ukrainian security service is investigating the matter, the statement said.
In court, Shichmarin was questioned by the judge, first in Ukrainian and then in Russian, with an interpreter by his side. Reuters had not been able to reach him or his legal representative prior to the trial.
“Today is the first case, but there will be many more of this kind”, prosecutor Andrey Sinyuk told reporters after the pre-trial court.
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