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Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison in Ukraine's first war crimes trial since invasion

Investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine
The work of war crimes prosecutors investigating Russian atrocities in Ukraine 02:42

Almost three months after Russia launched its invasion, Ukraine saw its first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier end Monday with a life sentence. A court in Kyiv handed a Russian soldier the sentence for the shooting of an unarmed civilian in the early days of the war.

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was convicted Monday of shooting and killing 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov on February 28 — just four days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion — in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka. Shishimarin pleaded guilty, but said he had been acting on orders, and apologized to Shelipov's widow.

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War
Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin listens to his translator during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 23, 2022. Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Russia denies that its military has targeted civilians at all during the invasion, but Ukraine says it is investigating around than 13,000 war crimes already. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would search for ways to defend Shishimarin.

"Of course we are concerned about the fate of our citizen. Unfortunately, we are unable to defend his interests on the ground. This is due to the de facto lack of operations of our institutions [in Ukraine]. But this does not mean we will stop considering ways to continue our efforts through other channels," Peskov said Monday.

At a previous hearing, prosecutors said Shishimarin had been driving in a private vehicle with other soldiers, which they had stolen in an attempt to escape after their column came under attack by Ukrainian forces.

They drove to the village of Chupakhivka, where they came upon Shelipov riding a bicycle and talking on his phone.

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Prosecutors said Shishimarin was ordered to shoot the civilian to stop him from telling Ukrainian forces about the Russians' location. They said Shishimarin fired several shots out of his open car window at the victim's head, killing him instantly.

Shishimarin's defense lawyer said he had fired only after refusing the order to shoot Shelipov two times, and that he had done so out of fear for his own safety.

Kateryna Shelipova, Oleksandr Shelipov's widow, confronted Shishimarin during the trial, CBS partner network BBC News reported.

"Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To 'protect' us?" she said, mocking Putin's own justification for the war. "Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?"

Later she told the BBC: "I feel very sorry for him, but for a crime like that, I can't forgive him."

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