Russian soldier in Ukraine war crime trial pleads for forgiveness from victim’s widow

Twnety-one-year-old pleads guilty to shooting pensioner in head several times

Lamiat Sabin
Thursday 19 May 2022 23:58
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21-year-old Russian soldier appears in court as Ukraine war crimes trial begins

A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has pleaded for his victim’s widow to forgive him.

During his testimony at a court in Kyiv, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, told the court that he was ordered by two officers to shoot Ukrainian civilian Oleksandr Shelipov.

He claimed that he had initially disobeyed the order, but that he shot the 62-year-old because one of the officers insisted that Mr Shelipov, who was speaking on his mobile phone at the time, could pass on their exact location to Ukrainian fighters.

He is alleged to have shot him several times in the head with an AK-47 assault rifle through the open window of a stolen car, in a village in the Sumy region of northeast Ukraine. The shooting happened on 28 February – the fourth day of the invasion.

Mr Shishimarin, from Irkutsk in Siberia, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of shooting Mr Shelipov. He pleaded guilty to the charges at a hearing on Wednesday.

Vadim Shishimarin (centre) and Kateryna Shelipova (left)

On Thursday, he asked the victim’s widow Kateryna Shelipova – who attended the trial – to forgive him.

He said: “I realise that you can’t forgive me, but I’m pleading with you for forgiveness.”

Ms Shelipova said her husband – a pensioner and grandfather of two – had gone out to see a Russian tank that had been blown up. She added that she was “arguing with him, saying it was not safe to go out”.

“He said, ‘I’ll be fine, it is only round the corner, I’ll see you later.’ Those were the last words he said to me,” she added.

Later, she heard gunfire outside their home and, when the shooting stopped, she left the building to find her husband of 39 years dead.

She said about her husband: “He was all to me. He was my defender.”

Shishimarin could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of war crimes

Mr Shelipov had served in the Russian military as a KGB bodyguard to former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

After completing his training in Moldova in 1979, he spent two years with a bodyguard unit commanded by the KGB, and was stationed at Brezhnev’s summer residence in Crimea. After his military duty, he worked as a tractor driver.

Ms Shelipova said her husband was “enraged” by the invasion, adding: “It was a great shock to all of us. No one expected this.”

Shishimarin deserves a life sentence, she told the court.

Shishimarin behind glass speaking to his translator at the court in Kyiv

But she added that she would be open to seeing Shishimarin used in a prisoner swap with Russia to release Ukrainian troops that were trapped in the Azovstal steel plant before they had surrendered to Putin’s forces.

Prosecutors said Shishimarin confessed to the killing soon after he was arrested on 1 March. He was captured in a shootout with armed residents of a neighbouring village.

In court, he replied “yes” when asked by Judge Serhii Ahafonov whether he pleaded guilty.

Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova has said her office was preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offences including bombing infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are being held by Ukraine and how many would be tried in absentia.

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