“Wheels of justice started turning and this process will yield results,” the Prosecutor General of Ukraine tweeted at the opening of the first war crime trial since the beginning of the widespread military attack launched by the Russian Federation on 24 February. “Today the first Russian Federation sergeant – a commander of a Tank Division -- appears before the court for his action. Sergeant Shishimarin is accused of killing an unarmed civilian with an AK74 in the village of Chupakhivka on February 28,” Iryna Venediktova added.
On May 13, the prosecution, the defendant’s attorney Viktor Ovsiannikov and a Russian language interpreter were present in the courtroom, where the debates were held in Ukrainian. Dressed in a blue and grey tracksuit, with a clean-shaven head, the 21-year-old defendant was allegedly the commander of the Western Military District 4th Kantemirovskaya tank division’s 32010 unit.
During the establishment of identity, the accused answered the questions of the court, saying he was single, had no children, had not been previously convicted, and was living in the town of Ust-Ilimsk, Irkutsk region. The military unit he served in is located in the town of Naro-Fominsk, Moscow region, he said.
Violation "of the laws and customs of war"
The full indictment in Vadim Shishimarin’s case will be read on May 18. The serviceman of the Russian Federation is charged with violating “the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder” under the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Shishimarin surrendered to the Territoral Defence of Ukraine. The investigation established, on the basis of testimonies and examination of weapons, that on February 28, Shishimarin killed an unarmed civilian on the side of the road in the village of Chupakhivka, Sumy region, in the east of Ukraine.
Prior to that, Sergeant Shishimarin’s column was defeated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. While fleeing, according to the investigation, Shishimarin and his four comrades fired at a private car and seized it. The invaders drove into the village in the stolen car with punctured wheels. On their way, they saw a man who was talking on the phone, whil epushing his bicycle. One of the servicemen ordered the Sergeant to kill the civilian so that he would not report them to Ukrainian forces. He fired several shots through the open window of the car from a Kalashnikov rifle at the head of the 62-year-old victim. The man died on the spot, a few dozen meters from his home.
Ukrainian Defence Counsel
The Russian national, who faces 10-15 years in prison or life imprisonment, is being tried before a civilian court of justice, Ukraine having abolished military courts in 2010, and is represented by an appointed Ukrainian attorney, Viktor Ovsiannikov. "The state provides him with a defender at its own expense. I am a private lawyer, and have a contract with the Ministry of Justice. When I was offered this case, I was informed of the preliminary theory. We are not informed about all the circumstances of the case,” Ovsiannikov explained.
Shishimarin was informed about his right to have the jury trial, but his Attorney announced his choice that the case should be heard not by a jury, but by three judges. Ovsiannikov informed the Court that he had already got acquainted with all the materials, but refused to reveal the line of defence in advance.
Earlier, the Attorney said that the defendant was aware of what is happening, and that he is being kept in custody. According to the lawyer, all prisoners of war were given an opportunity to contact their relatives, and Shishimarin was able to do so. On May 18, Shishimarin will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the accusations.
This trial is just a first step, said Prosecutor General Venediktova at the national TV, on May 16. "For today we have identified 45 such persons on war crimes charges, and three people are already in court [Shishimarin and starting this week two other soldiers arrested in the Kharkiv region]. We have investigated 45 individuals from the Russian Federation who committed atrocities in Ukraine, but there are as many as 11,600 facts on which crimes are investigated.”
This report is part of a series on war crimes, produced in partnership with Ukrainian journalists. It was originally published on the Sudovyi Reporter website.