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Defense asks court to acquit Russian soldier accused of war crimes

May 20, 2022 3:33 pmby Anna Myroniuk
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Vadim Shishimarin, 21, the first Russian soldier, on trial for a war crime in Ukraine since Russia began its all-out war on Feb. 24. in Kyiv court on May 20, 2022. (Anna Myroniuk)

Days after Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin, 21, pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian, his lawyer asked for the defendant to be acquitted.

“He does not deny that he fired a shot. (Yet) he did not know whether he killed this person,” lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov told the judges during the third day of litigation.

“If he had realized that, what was the point for him to surrender himself?” Ovsyannikov added.

Shishimarin, a sergeant in the Russian army, is accused of killing 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov as his unit was retreating from Ukraine’s northern Sumy Oblast.

Shishimarin shot him in the head. On May 18, he pledged guilty and said he was ready for any punishment. Now, the soldier’s defense says he was ordered to shoot by his superior and didn’t intend to kill.

The prosecution doesn’t agree, seeking a life sentence for what, if proven guilty, constitutes a war crime.

Trial

On Feb. 28, Shishimarin and four of his comrades in arms were driving a stolen civilian car through the village of Chupakhivka in Sumy Oblast near Ukraine’s northern border with Russia.

Local villager, Shelipov, was on the street talking by phone. Shishimarin took his Kalashnikov assault rifle and shot him in the head from a car window.

Soon, after being ambushed by Ukrainian hunters, lacking the means to leave Ukraine, Shishimarin surrendered.

Read more: First Russian soldier standing trial for war crime in Ukraine asks for forgiveness, faces life imprisonment

According to Ovsyannikov, Shishimarin was ordered to shoot Shelipov by superiors and had to obey.

“He was pressured by two people who he perceived as his commanders in that circumstance,” Ovsyannikov said.

Ovsyannikov added that Shishimarin did not want to kill Shelipov.

“He did not have the intention to kill him. His shots were not aimed. He carried out the order pro forma, not with an intention to kill a person,” the lawyer went on.

“I sincerely regret what I did. At that moment, I was nervous, there were hostilities. I did not want to kill. But it happened...” Shishimarin said, once again asking for forgiveness.

The prosecutors, however, argued that Shishimarin did not have to obey orders coming from his fellow soldiers as they were from another unit, and he was not their subordinate.

“There is no clause in the military regulations of the Russian Federation saying that a soldier can kill a civilian,” prosecutor Yaroslav Ushyapivskiy said.

“Shishimarin realized that the order was to kill that man and still carried it out, firing his machine gun three or four times,” the prosecutor added.

“He deliberately killed a civilian,” Ushyapivskiy went on.

Serhiy Agafonov, a judge, sits at a trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian during Russia's retreat from Ukraine in Kyiv on May 20, 2022. (Anna Myroniuk)

The court is set to make a judgment on May 23.

Ovsyannikov, however, is already preparing to appeal, adding that if it will be necessary, he’ll bring Shishimarin’s case to a European court.

Anna Myroniuk
Author: Anna Myroniuk

Anna Myroniuk is the head of investigations at the Kyiv Independent. Anna has run investigative projects on human rights, healthcare and illicit trade. She investigated presidents and oligarchs. She has written for New York Times, Washington Post, Coda Story and OCCRP. Anna holds a Masters in Investigative Journalism from the City University of London. She is a Chevening Scholar, a finalist of the 2020 Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, an honoree of the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe Media & Marketing list, and the runner-up in the investigative reporting category of the 2022 European Press Prize.

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