May 21, 2022

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Russian soldier on trial in first Ukraine war crimes case

Russian soldier on trial in first Ukraine war crimes case

Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – A 21-year-old Russian soldier appeared on trial Friday in Kyiv for the murder of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crime trial of a member of the Russian military after 11 weeks of bloodshed in Ukraine..

The soldier, a captured member of a tank unit, is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern village of Chubakivka during the early days of the war..

Dozens of journalists and cameras crowded inside a small courtroom in the Solomyanskyy District Court in the Ukrainian capital, where the suspect was Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, sat in a glass area, wearing a blue and gray hoodie, sweatpants, and a shaved head.

He faces life imprisonment Under a section of the Ukrainian Criminal Code dealing with the laws and customs of war. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, with the help of foreign experts, is investigating allegations that Russian forces have violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and ill-treating thousands of Ukrainian civilians..

Friday’s hearing in the Shishimarin case was brief. A judge asked him to provide his name, address, marital status, and other identifying details. He was also asked if he understood his rights, he answered calmly “yes” and if he wanted a jury trial, which he refused.

The judges and lawyers discussed procedural issues before the judges left the courtroom and then returned to say the case would continue on May 18.

Defense lawyer Viktor Ovsianikov acknowledged that the case against the soldier was strong but said the court would make the final decision on what evidence to allow. Ovsianikov said on Thursday that he and his client had not yet decided how he would defend.

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After Friday’s hearing, Ovsyannikov said he was assigned to defend Shishimarin as an attorney for the Center for Free Legal Aid. Ovsyanikov said his client “certainly knows all the details” about what he was accused of. The lawyer did not explain his defensive strategy in detail.

As the opening war crimes case in Ukraine, Shchechymarin’s trial is closely watched. Investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes for the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Prosecutor’s Office Irina Venediktova It said it was investigating more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.

Several alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow’s forces ended their attempt to seize Kyiv and withdrew from across the capital, exposing mass graves and corpse-strewn streets and squares in cities like Bucha..

Volodymyr Yavorsky, coordinator at the Center for Civil Liberties in Kyiv, said activists will monitor the Russian soldier’s trial to ensure his legal rights are protected. He said it may be difficult to maintain the impartiality of court proceedings in wartime.

“It is surprising that a suspect of war crimes is found and will be prosecuted. Charges of this kind are usually brought in absentia. “This is a rare case when in a short time we were able to find a soldier who violated international rules of war.”

Yavorsky said he believed Russia was preparing for similar trials of Ukrainian soldiers. Asked Friday about the Shishimarin case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I have no information about this trial and this incident.”

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Last week, Prosecutor General Venediktova, her office and the Ukraine Security Service, the country’s law enforcement agency, posted some details on social media from the investigation into Shishimarin’s alleged actions.

On February 28, four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Shishimarin was among a group of Russian forces that had fled Ukrainian forces, According to Venediktova’s Facebook account. The Russians allegedly shot and captured a private car, then drove to Chubakivka, a village about 200 miles east of Kyiv.

The Public Prosecutor alleged that on the road Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk and talking on his phone. Shishimarin ordered the man to be killed so that he could not report them to the Ukrainian military authorities. Venediktova did not specify who gave the order.

Shishimarin fired his Kalashnikov through the open window, hitting the victim in the head.

“The man died instantly, a few tens of meters from his house,” Venediktova wrote.

The Ukrainian Security Service, better known as the Security Management Unit, released a short video on May 4 of Shishimarin speaking on camera and briefly describing how the man was shot. The State Security Administration described the video as “one of the first confessions of the enemy invaders.”

“I was ordered to shoot,” said Shishimarin. “I shot him one (shot). He falls. And we just kept moving forward.”

It is important for the Ukrainian authorities to “prove that war crimes will be resolved and those responsible brought to justice in line with international standards,” said Vadim Karasev, an independent political analyst based in Kyiv.

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While the speed with which Shishimarin appeared in court is unusual for a country at war, the case is not without precedent.

A Bosnian Serb soldier, Borislav Hirac, was imprisoned by Bosnian Army soldiers in November 1992 after he inadvertently strayed from Serb-held territory. During his three-week interrogation and trial in March 1993, he confessed to having committed 35 murders and 14 rapes, and was eventually convicted of genocide and crimes against civilians.

The movement was sentenced to death. His initial death sentence was commuted to 20 years after Bosnia abolished the death penalty.

Senad Kreho, who served as chief of a district military court in Sarajevo in 1993, said on Friday that bringing war crimes suspects to trial during the fighting does not mean the justice system will not function properly.

“Numerous subsequent reviews of the (Hirak) case by international and national legal experts found that he had been given a fair trial,” Creo said.

“The only change is that his sentence was commuted, but he served it completely,” he added.

The 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, which pitted its main ethnic communities – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – against each other, killed 100,000 people, mostly civilians, and pushed over two million people, or more than half the country’s population. from their homes.

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Lardner reported from Washington. Sabina Nikic contributed in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine