Ukraine: Russian soldier jailed for life

A court in Ukraine has jailed a Russian tank commander for life for killing a civilian at the first war crimes trial since the invasion.

Captured soldier Sgt Vadim Shishimarin was convicted of killing Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, in the north-eastern village of Chupakhivka on 28 February.

He admitted shooting Shelipov but said he had been acting on orders and asked forgiveness of the man’s widow.

Many other alleged war crimes are being investigated by Ukraine.

And in a conflict where the deliberate targeting of civilians has become one of the defining features, Monday’s outcome sets a significant legal precedent.

Moscow has always denied its troops have targeted civilians, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, while Ukraine says more than 11 000 crimes may have occurred.

Ukraine, however, is likely to bring more cases like this to unpick Moscow’s blanket denials.

This sentencing is unlikely to lead to an immediate change in tactics from the invading forces, but it does bring Oleksandr Shelipov’s widow Kateryna Shelipova justice.

Imposing the life sentence, Judge Serhiy Agafonov said Shishimarin, 21, had carried out a “criminal order” by a soldier of higher rank.

“Given that the crime committed is a crime against peace, security, humanity and the international legal order . . . the court does not see the possibility of imposing a [shorter] sentence of imprisonment,” he said.

Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings silently from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom and showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.

His lawyer said an appeal would be lodged against the verdict.

The Kremlin’s response is already in motion, with laws being drafted and courts being set up in Russia to try some Ukrainian prisoners as war criminals.

This suggests both countries could soon find themselves in a legal tit-for-tat while the conflict rages on. (BBC)

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