Captured and Prosecuted

A 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial Friday in Kyiv for the murder of an unarmed civilian. This marks the first such prosecution since Russia invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Russian army sergeant Vadim Shishimarin is suspected of violations of the laws of war. He sits quietly in a holding cage during a court hearing in Kyiv on May 13, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

The young Russian sergeant was captured as a member of an armored unit. He stands accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man, a civilian, in the head through an open car window during the first days of the war. The illegal shooting took place in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. The man died as a result of the gunshot wound.

The First of Many

The 21-one-year-old Vadim Shishimarin will undoubtedly be the first of several accused Russian war criminals to have their day in court, as the number of such crimes registered by Ukraine’s general prosecutor passed 11,000 recently. In addition, the humanitarian aid organization UNICEF reports that at least 100 Ukrainian children had been killed in the war in April alone.

The defendant is a member of the fourth Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, which is comprised of 12,000 – 14,000 men. Their primary vehicles are the T-80U, T-80BV, and T-80BVM main battle tanks, in addition to numerous BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles. They also utilize self-propelled artillery such as the 2S3 Akatsiya and BM 21 and 27 Multiple Rocket Launchers.

Shishimarin enters a holding cage and makes a brief statement. Video courtesy of YouTube and The Telegraph.

A Confession

Shortly after Sgt Shyshimarin was captured, the Security Services of Ukraine, known more commonly as the SBU, posted a brief video of him describing how he shot the man. The SBU calls it “one of the first confessions of the enemy invaders.” 

The Russian tanker, in his blue and gray hoodie, told the SBU:

“I was ordered to shoot. I shot one (round) at him. He falls. And we kept on going.”

Under the Ukrainian criminal code, he faces up to life in prison if convicted of the illegal killing. Shyshimarin’s hearing was brief. A judge had him provide his name, address, and marital status, among other personally identifying details. Then, he asked the defendant if he understood his rights, to which he quietly replied, “yes,” and if he wanted a trial by jury, to which he replied, “no.”

The World Will Be Watching

Legal personnel associated with the matter discussed the case and decided it would continue on May 18th. Shyshimarin’s defense attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, acknowledged that the case against his client is strong, and the court would render its final decision based on the evidence on hand. Ovsyanikov was assigned the case by the Center for Free Legal Aid. He told the press that he is not certain at this point how his client will plead but that he definitely knows all the details of what he is being accused of.

Not surprisingly, the defense attorney refused to give details regarding his strategy. Since this is the first of many potential war crimes cases in the Ukrainian legal system, Shyshimarin’s prosecution is being watched closely. For some time now, investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.