- The first war crimes trial over the invasion of Ukraine involves a Russian tank commander.
- Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian.
- Shishimarin admitted his guilt and asked the victim’s widow for forgiveness.
A Russian tank commander accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian asked the victim’s widow for forgiveness during a hearing on Thursday in the first war crimes trial to emerge from the Ukraine conflict.
The 21-year-old soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, was confronted by the widow, Kateryna Shelipova, at the hearing in Kyiv. She asked if he had repented of his crime, per the BBC.
“I acknowledge my blame,” Shishimarin said, per Reuters. “I ask you to forgive me,” he added, according to the outlet.
“But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he said, per the BBC.
Shelipova told the court that she believed Shishimarin should either be released back to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange with Ukraine, or be sentenced to life in prison. Russia captured several hundred Ukrainian soldiers defending Mariupol this week, registering them as prisoners of war.
The Ukrainian widow told the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford that while she felt sorry for Shishimarin, she couldn’t forgive him for killing her husband. Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the killing on Wednesday.
“Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?” Shelipova asked Shishimarin, per the BBC. “Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?”
The Russian soldier did not respond, according to the BBC.
Shelipova recounted how she was drawing water from a well in the village of Chupakhivka on the morning of February 28 when she heard a gunshot, per Agence France-Presse.
She later saw a young man with a rifle sitting in a car, per AFP. “I remember him well,” she said, referring to Shishimarin, the outlet reported.
Five minutes later, she found her husband, Oleksandr. “He was dead with a shot in his head. I started screaming very loudly,” she told the court, per AFP.
Shishimarin said at the hearing that as the Russian army retreated from the region, he and several other soldiers had hijacked a Volkswagen car to catch up with the rest of their forces, per AFP.
While they drove, they spotted a man who said he would “give them up,” prompting another soldier to tell Shishimarin to shoot him, the tank commander said, according to AFP.
“He said I would be putting us in danger if I didn’t. I shot him at short range. It killed him,” Shishimarin said, per the outlet.
According to Shishimarin, the other soldier was not his commander, Reuters reported. When asked if he had been obliged to follow an order that amounted to a war crime, Shishimarin said he was not, per the outlet.