First Russian soldier goes on trial in Ukraine for war crimes

A Russian soldier has appeared in court accused of murdering an unarmed man on a bicycle, at the start of the first war crime trial in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin invaded the country.

Vadim Shysimarin, a commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, arrived at Kyiv’s small district court No 3 in a grey and blue tracksuit and handcuffs for a preliminary hearing.

The 21-year-old is charged with premeditated murder of a 62-year-old man who was not named in court. Shysimarin is being held in Ukrainian custody. The case is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.

Shysimarin’s lawyer said his client had confessed to killing the victim but had not yet discussed whether to plead guilty.

The defendant, who was helped by a Russian interpreter to follow the hearing, spoke briefly to confirm his name and that he understood the charges against him. “Yes, I understand,” he said.

It is alleged that Shysimarin had been fighting in the Sumy region in north-east Ukraine when he killed a civilian on 28 February in the village of Chupakhivka.

He is accused of shooting at a car after his convoy of military vehicles came under attack from Ukrainian forces. He then drove the car away with four other soldiers as he sought to flee.

Shysimarin, who is from the city of Ust Illyinsk, in the south-eastern Russian region of Irkutsk, shot dead the unarmed man, who was on a bicycle and talking on his phone, after being ordered “to kill a civilian so he would not report them to Ukrainian defenders”, according to prosecutors.

The crime is said to have happened “dozens of metres” from the victim’s house and was committed using an AK-74 rifle.

The trial is another propaganda triumph for Kyiv, and comes as the number of crimes registered by Ukraine’s general prosecutor surpassed 11,200 and Unicef reported that at least 100 children were killed in the war in April alone.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in his Thursday night address to the nation that Russian forces had destroyed 570 healthcare facilities in the country, including 101 hospitals. “What for? It’s nonsense. It’s barbarity,” he said.

In the north-eastern region of Chernihiv, three people were killed and 12 others were wounded on Thursday in a strike on a school in Novgorod-Siversky, the emergency services said.

Two further unnamed soldiers are expected to have a first hearing within days on allegations that they used a Soviet truck-mounted 122mm multiple rocket launcher to carry out artillery shelling of homes and civilian buildings in the village of Kozacha Lopan, in Kharkiv district. They also allegedly hit an “educational institution” in the city of Dergachiv from Belgorod in Russia.

The soldiers later crossed over the border into Ukraine and continued shelling targets in the Kharkiv region, it is claimed, and they were taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces and now await trial.

In another case, which is likely to he heard in absentia, a soldier named as Mikhail Romanov is accused of breaking into a house in a village in the Brovarsky region in March, murdering a man and repeatedly raping his wife while “threatening her and her child with violence and weapons”. A second soldier also raped the 33-year-old woman and it is understood prosecutors believe they know his identity.