Ukrainian prosecutors on Thursday asked that a Russian soldier, who testified that he shot a civilian on an officer’s orders, receive a life sentence.
Vadim Shishimarin, facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war in Ukraine, was accused of shooting a 62-year-old man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, four days into the invasion.
Shishimarin, who has pleaded guilty to the charges, testified Thursday that he shot a civilian on orders from two officers and pleaded for his victim’s widow to forgive him.
The 21-year-old soldier told a court in Kyiv that the officer insisted the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to Ukrainian forces.
Looking subdued, the Russian sergeant said he at first disobeyed his immediate commanding officer’s order to shoot the unarmed civilian but had no other choice but to follow the order when it was repeated forcefully by another officer.
On Thursday, he asked the victim’s widow, who also appeared in the trial, to forgive him for what he did.
“I realise that you can’t forgive me, but I’m pleading you for forgiveness,” Shishimarin said.
The woman, Kateryna Shelipova, said her 62-year-old husband, Oleksandr Shelipov, got out to check what was going on when gunshots rang just outside their home.
When the shooting ceased shortly after, she walked out and found her husband shot dead just outside their home.
Shelipova told the court that Shishimarin deserves a life sentence for killing her husband but added that she wouldn’t mind if he’s exchanged as part of a possible prisoner swap with Russia for the surrendered Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
The prosecutor asked for a life sentence for Shishimarin and the trial adjourned until Friday.
Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, is being prosecuted under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war.
As the inaugural war-crimes case in Ukraine, Shishimarin’s prosecution was being watched closely.
Investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.