Lawyer asks Kyiv war crimes trial to acquit Russian soldier

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The lawyer for the first Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine said in closing arguments Friday that his client was "not guilty" of premeditated murder and war crimes.

The Russian serviceman, 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin has admitted in court in the capital Kyiv to killing a 62-year-old civilian in the early stages of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"Taking into account the evidence and testimonies I believe that Shishimarin is not guilty of the crime that he is accused of," his lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, told the court.

"I ask you to acquit my client."

Prosecutors this week requested a life sentence for Shishimarin for killing civilian Oleksandr Shelipov in the village of Chupakhivka in northeast Ukraine several days after Russian tanks entered Ukraine.

Shishimarin, a shaven-headed Russian sergeant from Irkutsk in Siberia told the court Friday that he was "truly sorry" for what he had done.

"I was nervous about what was going on. I didn't want to kill," he said, standing in the glass defence box, wearing a grey and blue hoodie.

The landmark trial, which concluded on its third day Friday, is expected to see a verdict delivered against the young Russian on Monday.

It is the first case of its kind since Russia invaded on February 24 and is being seen as a public test of the independence of Ukraine's judicial system.

International institutions are simultaneously investigating abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces.

- 'I want to apologise' -

Shishimarin said in court earlier this week that the killing on February 28 occurred as he and several other servicemen were retreating.

He said he was urged to carrying out the killing by a another Russian soldier who was not a higher-ranking officer.

"I want to apologise for what I did," Shishimarin said Friday.

In a hearing a day earlier he asked his victim's widow, Kateryna Shelipova, for forgiveness.

His lawyer argued in court that Shishimarin hadn't wanted to carry out what he perceived to be a direct order and that he didn't initially obey.

He said Shishimarin had "succumbed to the pressure" of two other Russian soldiers he was also in a car with attempting to return to Russia.

Ovsyannikov also called into question whether his client had intended to kill Shelipov.

"Is it possible to make an aimed shot in such an environment? Did Shishimarin have the intention to kill Shelipov?"

The lawyer said his client had carried out the order hoping his shots would not kill Shelipov. He also noted that Shishimarin had "voluntarily" given himself over to Ukrainian troops.

The prosecution argued, however, that Shishimarin had shot between three and four bullets with the intention of killing the civilian.

"He was executing a criminal order and was well aware of it," the prosecutor said.

The Kremlin has said it was not informed of Shishimarin's case and his lawyer said he had not had any contact with Russian officials.

Ukraine's Interfax news agency reported Thursday that two more Russian soldiers on trial in the centre of the country had admitted to accusations of firing artillery on civilians.