In the first war crimes trial in Kyiv, the accused confesses to killing a civilian. “I was ordered to shoot,” the Russian soldier is quoted as saying. The Kremlin pretends to be ignorant.

Almost three months after the start of the war in Ukraine, the first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier began in Kyiv on Wednesday. 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin pleaded guilty to shooting an unarmed civilian before a district court in the Ukrainian capital. This was reported by the AFP news agency and the British BBC. Meanwhile, Moscow reported the capture of nearly 700 other Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azov Steelworks in Mariupol.

Shishimarin is accused of shooting dead an unarmed 62-year-old from a stolen car in the northern Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on February 28. The soldier from Irkutsk, Siberia faces a life sentence for war crimes and murder. According to Ukrainian authorities, he admitted to killing the man.

“I was ordered to shoot”

The young soldier with the shaved head looked down during the indictment. According to the information, the 21-year-old wanted to flee with four comrades in the stolen car after an attack on his convoy in northern Ukraine.

The victim was therefore on his bike not far from his house in Chupakhivka. According to the prosecutor, the Russian soldier, on the orders of one of his comrades, shot the civilian with a Kalashnikov assault rifle because he had witnessed the theft of the car.

“I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell and we drove on,” Shishimarin said in a video released by the Ukrainian authorities in early May. In the video, the 21-year-old also said he came to Ukraine to “support his mother financially”.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it had no information on the case. “The possibilities for support are also very limited due to the lack of a diplomatic mission on site,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Shishimarin’s lawyer Viktor Ovsiannikov described the process as a challenge. “This is the first case in Ukraine with such a charge. There is no relevant legal practice or judgments on such cases,” he said.

Ukraine: More than 11,000 ongoing war crimes cases

Ukraine accuses the Russian army of committing numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity since the invasion began. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is also investigating alleged international crimes.

According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, there are more than 11,000 ongoing war crimes cases in Ukraine and so far 40 suspects. “With this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that any perpetrator, any person who ordered or assisted the commission of crimes in Ukraine, cannot escape responsibility,” she said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Wednesday reported the capture of nearly 700 other Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azov Steelworks in Mariupol. In the past 24 hours, 694 fighters surrendered, including 29 wounded, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

A total of 959 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Mariupol plant since Monday. Kyiv hopes to exchange prisoners with Russia, but Moscow has not yet commented on this.

The port city of Mariupol, which has been besieged by Moscow’s troops since the beginning of March, should very soon be completely in Russian hands. For Russia, this would be an important strategic achievement.

The negotiations for a settlement of the war, however, remained deadlocked. Russia blamed Ukraine for the deadlock on Wednesday. The Ukrainian negotiators “completely lack the will to continue this process,” said Kremlin spokesman Peskov. Ukraine said on Tuesday that talks had been suspended because of Russia’s stance.