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Ukraine tries its first Russian soldier for alleged war crimes

Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova visits a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on April 13
Fadel Senna
AFP via Getty Images
Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova visits a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on April 13

The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general announced on Wednesday that it is opening its first war crimes trial, in the case of a Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, writing on Facebook, identified the soldier as 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin — a member of the elite 4th Guards Tank Division — and said he is currently in custody. The events in question took place Feb. 28 in Chupakhivka, a village in the Sumy region about 180 miles east of Kyiv.

A pretrial investigation found that Shishimarin and four colleagues, fleeing an attack by Ukrainian defense forces, fired at and seized a private car, which they used to drive into the village. On the way, they saw a man talking on a phone while walking his bicycle along the sidewalk.

Venediktova said that one of the other soldiers ordered Shishimarin to kill the civilian "so he would not report them to Ukrainian defenders." Investigators say Shishimarin fired his Kalashnikov several times through the car window, shooting the unarmed 62-year-old in the head.

"The man died on the spot just a few dozens of meters from his house," she added.

She said that prosecutors have collected "enough evidence of his involvement in violation of the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder," for which Shishimarin faces either 10-15 years in prison or life in prison.

"Shishimarin is actually physically in Ukraine," Venediktova told Ukraine's public broadcaster, according to the The Washington Post. "We are starting a trial not in absentia, but rather directly with the person who killed a civilian, and this is a war crime."

More such trials could be on the horizon. Venediktova said last week that Russia has committed nearly 10,000 war crimes since invading Ukraine in late February.

This story first appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.