Premiere in Kyiv: On Friday, court proceedings began with the hearing of Lieutenant Vadim Schischimarin. He is the first Russian soldier to stand trial for alleged war crimes. On February 28, shortly after the invasion began, Shishimarin reportedly shot an elderly civilian (62) in the head through an open car window in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka.
The accused is 21 years young and was a member of an armored division. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 years in prison, according to Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova on Facebook. With the help of foreign experts, prosecutors are currently investigating allegations against Russian troops that they may have killed, tortured and ill-treated thousands of Ukrainian civilians.
Charges such as those against Schismarin are usually filed in their absence. Here – a rarity – it was possible in a short time to find the accused soldier who is said to have violated international rules of warfare.
Scores of journalists and cameramen crowded the small courtroom of the Solomianskyi District Court on Friday, where Shishimarin seated himself behind a glass-enclosed room – wearing a blue and gray hoodie, sweatpants and a shaved head, eyes downcast. According to a spokesman for Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office, the hearing was a “preparatory session”.
The first day of negotiations was short: 15 minutes. Schishimarin was informed of his rights and declined a jury trial. The trial will continue on May 18th.
Shishimarin is said to have killed the unarmed civilian with several shots from his Kalashnikov rifle. The Ukrainian has just pushed a bicycle along the roadside in the village of Chupakhivka. According to Venediktova’s tweet, Shishimarin and four other soldiers have just fled the fighting in the Sumy region in a stolen car. “One of the soldiers ordered the sergeant to kill the civilian lest he report them to the Ukrainian defenders,” the statement said. “The man died on the spot, just a few tens of meters from his home.”
In a video released by the Ukrainian security service, Shishimarin admitted to the crime he was ordered to do. He is represented by Ukrainian lawyer Victor Ovsyanikov, appointed by the court. “It’s very important to make sure my client’s human rights are protected, to show that we’re a different country than where he comes from,” Ovsyanikov told the New York Times.
With the world’s eyes on Ukraine and senior international law experts advising Ukrainian prosecutors, Ukraine is likely to abide by international rules in this trial and those that follow, Robert Goldman, a war crimes and human rights expert at the Washington College of Law, told the American University, opposite The Post. Prisoners of war have the right to a trial before an independent and impartial tribunal.
Ukraine is pressing ahead with investigations into suspected war criminals, although it is unlikely that top Russian politicians, including President Vladimir Putin, will ever stand trial. Since March, the US State Department has been talking about concrete evidence from the US secret services of war crimes by Russian troops. The office of Attorney General Iryna Venediktova is currently investigating more than 10,700 possible war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.
Many of the alleged atrocities came to light over the past month after Moscow forces ended their attempt to take Kyiv and withdrew from the capital’s outskirts.