KYIV (AFP) - A Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine appeared in court in Kyiv on Friday (May 13) ahead of the first war crimes trial since the start of the offensive.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was brought to court for a preliminary hearing, accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian, footage distributed by local media showed.
Shishimarin, with a shaved head, wore a grey and blue hoodie, and was placed in the defendant’s box, in a video shared by Ukrainian media.
He faces possible life imprisonment on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder.
The trial marks a significant moment for Ukraine, where Russian forces have been accused of killing hundreds of civilians since the war began on Feb 24.
Shishimarin is accused of firing an automatic rifle from a car window, killing the civilian to prevent him from serving as a witness to a carjacking, Ukrainian prosecutors said earlier this week.
Prosecutor Yaroslav Ushchapivskiy told the Ukrainska Pravda news website that Shishimarin had admitted his guilt and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
After his convoy was hit in northern Ukraine on Feb 28, Shishimarin joined four other fleeing soldiers and stole a car from outside the village of Chupakhivka, officials say.
The civilian, who was not named, was riding his bicycle on the side of the road not far from his home when the alleged theft took place, according to prosecutors.
“One of the military servicemen ordered the accused to kill a civilian so that he would not report them,” according to a statement from the prosecutor general’s office on Thursday.
“The man died on the spot just a few dozen metres (yards) from his home,” it added.
Shishimarin, who hails from Russia’s Siberian region of Irkutsk, was the commander of a unit in Russia’s Kantemirov Panzer division of the Moscow region, according to prosecutors.
Western countries have repeatedly accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in Ukraine.
The UN Human Rights Council voted overwhelmingly on Thursday – in a session boycotted by Russia – to probe allegations of atrocities in the Kyiv, Chernigiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions.
International Criminal Court (ICC) teams are also investigating possible mass atrocities, including in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where at least 20 bodies were discovered in April.