KYIV (Reuters) – A 21-year-old Russian soldier told a court on Friday he had not wanted to kill an unarmed civilian and that he sincerely repented, as he delivered his final words at the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
Vadim Shishimarin, a tank commander, has pleaded guilty to killing Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old civilian, in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on Feb. 28.
“I sincerely repent. I was nervous at the time, I did not want to kill… that’s how it happened,” Shishimarin said.
Shishimarin is accused of firing several shots with an assault rifle at a civilian’s head from a car after being ordered to do so.
Defence lawyer Viktor Ovsiannikov told the court that Shishimarin had only fired the rounds after twice refusing to carry out the order to shoot and that only one out of three-to-four rounds hit the target.
He said that Shishimarin had fired the rounds out of fear for his own safety and questioned whether the defendant had intended to kill.
“He was sitting at the window of a car… the car was moving at high speed with a punctured tyre,” Ovsiannikov said.
“I conclude that Shishimarin fired aimless shots and did not intend to kill the civilian, and that he carried out the order not with the aim of killing the person, but formally, with the hope that (the rounds) would not hit,” he said.
He said: “I personally think that it should not be this young man in the dock, but the senior leadership of the other country that I think is guilty of unleashing this war.”
State prosecutor Andriy Synyuk said the arguments did not change the essence of the case.
“The court will analyse all the evidence and announce its decision. The defence’s arguments in no way refute what we have given and do not refute … the guilt of Shishimarin himself,” the prosecutor said.
The judge may hand down a verdict on Monday when the court next convenes. The state prosecutor has asked the court to sentence Shishimarin to life in prison.
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.
The Kremlin has said it has no information about the trial and that the absence of a diplomatic mission in Ukraine limits its ability to provide assistance.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)