KYIV/STEPANKI• A Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian during Moscow's invasion of Ukraine appeared in court in Kyiv yesterday, ahead of the first war crimes trial since the start of the offensive in February.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was brought to court for a preliminary hearing, accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian, according to footage distributed by local media.
Shishimarin, with a shaved head, wore a grey and blue hoodie and was placed in the defendant's box, in a video post 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.
The prosecutor, Mr Yaroslav Ushchapivskiy told the privately-owned Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper 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, Ukraine says.
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 prosecutor Iryna Venediktova's office on Thursday.
"The man died on the spot just a few dozen metres from his home," it added.
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.
Teams from the International Criminal Court are also investigating possible mass atrocities, including in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha where at least 20 bodies were discovered in April.
Ukrainian prosecutors are also investigating a series of war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces, including the fatal shooting of two unarmed civilians outside Kyiv, according to officials yesterday.
CNN yesterday released what it said was security camera footage showing two Ukrainian civilians shot in the back by Russian soldiers near a car dealership outside Kyiv on March 16.
One man died on the spot, the other died shortly after.
Prosecutors are investigating the attack as a war crime, CNN reported.
CNN said it had identified the victims. One was the owner of the vehicle dealership that was looted, whose family does not want to be named. The other was Mr Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats, a 68-year-old who worked as a guard there.
According to CNN, five Russian soldiers arrived at the car dealership and tried to break into the businesses - firing at locks and smashing glass.
As the owner approached with hands raised, they stopped him and appeared to search him for weapons. Mr Plyats then arrived and was also frisked.
There seemed to be some conversation before the soldiers turned away and the two civilians began to walk back to their guard post, according to the CNN report.
Then at least two of the soldiers came up behind the men and opened fire before the two men dropped to the ground.