The first trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed civilian after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine begins in Kyiv on Wednesday.
The trial, which is expected to be followed by several others, will test Ukraine’s justice system at a time when international institutions are also conducting their own investigations into abuses committed by Russian forces.
21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin from 14:00 will appear in the court of Solomensky district of Kiev in connection with the death of a 62-year-old man in northeastern Ukraine on February 28.
Accused of war crimes and premeditated murder of a soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia faces life imprisonment.
“He understands what he is accused of,” his lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov told AFP, without disclosing arguments to the defense.
Ukrainian authorities say he is cooperating with the investigation and acknowledging the incident, which took place just four days after the Russian invasion began.
Prosecutors said Shishimarin was in command of a tank division when his convoy was attacked.
He and four other servicemen stole a car and collided with a 62-year-old man on a bicycle while driving near the village of Shupakhovka in the Sumy region.
“One of the servicemen ordered the accused to kill a civilian so that he would not report them,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Shishimarin then fired a Kalashnikov from a car window, and “the man died instantly, a few dozen meters from his home,” they added.
In early May, Ukrainian authorities announced his arrest, without giving details, posting a video in which Shishimarin said he had come to fight in Ukraine to “financially support his mother.”
He explained his actions as follows: “I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell, and we continued on our way. “
According to his lawyer, the case is difficult.
“This is the first such case in Ukraine with such an accusation. There is no relevant legal practice and verdicts in such cases. We will find out, ”he said.
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Ovsyannikov said he had not seen any violations of rights by the authorities.
Chief Prosecutor of Ukraine Irina Venediktov stressed the importance of the case for her country in a series of tweets.
“We have more than 11,000 war crimes cases and 40 suspects,” she said.
“With this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every criminal, every person who ordered or facilitated the commission of crimes in Ukraine, will not escape responsibility.”
Two Russian servicemen are to stand trial on Thursday for rocket fire at civilian infrastructure in the northeast of the Kharkiv region.