Russian tank commander first to be sentenced for war crimes in Ukraine

Sgt Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head

Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin of the Russian army appears at a sentencing hearing on May 23, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Getty
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A 21-year-old Russian soldier has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial held since Russia’s attack.

Sgt Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the north-eastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.

During the trial, Shishimarin asked the widow of the victim to forgive him.

He pleaded guilty and testified he had been ordered to shoot the man he killed. He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his mobile phone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.

Shishimarin’s defence laweyer Victor Ovsyanikov argued that his client, a member of a Russian tank unit who was eventually captured, had been unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” and mass casualties that Russian troops encountered when they first invaded Ukraine.

Judge Serhiy Agafonov said Shishimarin carried out a “criminal order” by a soldier of higher rank when he fired several shots at the victim's head from an automatic weapon.

“The court has decided: Shishimarin Vadim Evgenyevich … is found guilty … and sentenced him to life imprisonment,” he said.

“Given that the crime committed is a crime against peace, security, humanity and the international legal order … the court does not see the possibility of imposing a (shorter) sentence of imprisonment on Shishimarin for a certain period.”

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.

For much of the time, he stood with head bowed as he listened to a translator who stood with two guards outside the reinforced glass box.

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the war, and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.

Updated: May 23, 2022, 11:41 AM