Russian soldier in court asks forgiveness of victim’s widow

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Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the beginning of the war in Ukraine testified Thursday that he shot dead a civilian on orders from two officers and asked forgiveness of his victim’s widow.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin told the court that the officer insisted that the Ukrainian, who was on his mobile phone, could pinpoint their location to Ukrainian forces.

The 21-year-old sergeant could face life in prison if he is convicted of shooting a Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window on February 28, four days after the start of the Russian invasion, in a village in the north-eastern Sumy region.

Looking subdued, Shishimarin said he initially disobeyed orders from his immediate commanding officer to shoot the unarmed civilian, but had no choice but to obey the order when it was forcefully repeated by another officer.

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the charges during Wednesday’s hearing.

On Thursday he asked the victim’s widow, who also appeared at the trial, for forgiveness for his actions.

“I realize you cannot forgive me, but I ask your forgiveness,” Shishimarin said.

The woman, Kateryna Shelipova, said her 62-year-old husband, Oleksandr Shelipov, got out to see what was going on when shots rang out outside their home. When the shooting stopped shortly after, she went outside and found her husband shot dead right outside their home.

“He was everything to me. He was my defense attorney,” she said.

Shelipova told the court that Shishimarin deserved a life sentence for killing her husband, but added that she wouldn’t mind if he swapped for the surrendered Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol as part of a possible prisoner swap with Russia would.

The prosecutor asked for a life sentence for Shishimarin and the trial was adjourned until Friday.

Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian armored unit, is being prosecuted under a section of Ukraine’s Penal Code dealing with the laws and customs of war.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova earlier said her office was preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for crimes including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting. It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are in Ukrainian hands and how many would be tried in absentia.

As the first war crimes case in Ukraine, Shishimarin’s indictment was closely watched. Investigators have gathered evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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