‘I did not want to kill,’ Russian soldier tells Ukraine war crimes trial

The judge may hand down a verdict when the court next convenes on Monday

Charlene Rodrigues
Friday 20 May 2022 16:24 BST
Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin attends a court hearing as part of his trial on charges of war crimes, in the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv
Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin attends a court hearing as part of his trial on charges of war crimes, in the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv (EPA)

A 21-year-old Russian soldier has told a court that he did not want to kill an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, during the first trial to be held in respect of war crimes in Ukraine.

Vadim Shishimarin, a tank commander, pleaded guilty to killing Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old civilian, in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on 28 February.

“I sincerely repent. I was nervous at the time, I did not want to kill... that’s how it happened,” Mr Shishimarin said.

He is accused of firing several shots from a car, using an assault rifle, at a civilian’s head, after receiving orders from an officer.

Defence lawyer Viktor Ovsiannikov told the court that Mr Shishimarin had only fired the rounds after twice refusing to carry out the order to shoot, and that only one out of three or four rounds had hit the target.

Captive Russian soldier Ivan Matysov (right) testifies in the trial of fellow soldier Vadim Shishimarin (AFP via Getty)

He said that Mr Shishimarin had fired the rounds out of fear for his own safety, and questioned whether the defendant had intended to kill.

“He was sitting at the window of a car... the car was moving at high speed with a punctured tyre,” Mr Ovsiannikov said.

“I conclude that Mr Shishimarin fired aimless shots and did not intend to kill the civilian, and that he carried out the order, not with the aim of killing the person, but formally, with the hope that [the rounds] would not hit,” he said, adding: “I personally think that it should not be this young man in the dock, but the senior leadership of the other country that I think is guilty of unleashing this war.”

State prosecutor Andriy Synyuk said the arguments did not change the essence of the case. “The court will analyse all the evidence and announce its decision. The defence’s arguments in no way refute what we have given and do not refute ... the guilt of Shishimarin himself,” the prosecutor said.

The judge may hand down a verdict on Monday when the court next convenes. The state prosecutor has asked the court to sentence Mr Shishimarin to life in prison.

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion, and said it had identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.

The Kremlin has said it has no information about the trial, and that the absence of a diplomatic mission in Ukraine limits its ability to provide assistance.

Additional reporting by agencies

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