Russian tank commander, 21, sentenced to life in prison in first war crimes trial of Ukraine invasion

Vadim Shishimarin had previously pleaded guilty to killing 62-year-old civilian Oleksandr Shelipov in February

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A Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia's invasion.

Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, had pleaded guilty to killing 62-year-old civilian Oleksandr Shelipov in the northeastern Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on Feb 28.

After driving into Chupakhivka, the soldiers saw Shelipov riding a bicycle and talking on his phone. Shishimarin was ordered to kill Shelipov to prevent him reporting on their location, the prosecutors said.

Vadim Shishimarin has been sentenced to life in prison
Vadim Shishimarin has been sentenced to life in prison
Shishimarin in a Ukrainian court
Shishimarin in a Ukrainian court

Judge Serhiy Agafonov said Shishimarin, carrying out a "criminal order" by a soldier of higher rank, had fired several shots at the victim's head from an automatic weapon.

Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings silently from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom and showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.

In court last week, Shishimarin acknowledged he was to blame and asked the victim's widow to forgive him.

The court reached its verdict five days after holding its first full hearing.

The trial has huge symbolic significance for Ukraine, which has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.

The Kremlin on Monday said it was concerned by the trial of a Russian serviceman in Kyiv charged with war crimes, adding that it could not defend his interests in person.

"Of course we are concerned about the fate of our citizen, but, I repeat, we do not have the capacity to protect his interests in person," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, said the verdict was "not surprising" and could be the first part of "a large puzzle also involving Ukrainian soldiers being held in Russia".

"If this is the baseline trial ... it sets the bar very high," he said. "For most other war crimes cases in Ukraine I suspect we'll see similar sentences because this is the baseline trial."