A court in Ukraine has jailed a Russian tank commander for life for killing a civilian at the first war crimes trial since the invasion.
Captured soldier Sgt Vadim Shishimarin was convicted of killing Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka on February 28.
He admitted to shooting Mr. Shelipov but said he had been acting on orders and asked forgiveness of his widow.
Multiple other alleged war crimes are being investigated by Ukraine.
Moscow has denied its troops targeted civilians during the invasion while Ukraine says more than 11,000 crimes may have occurred.
This trial in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv is being seen as Ukraine’s chance to prove, beyond doubt, that a Russian soldier killed a civilian with no regard for the rules of war.
Ahead of the verdict, Shishimarin’s defence lawyer – appointed by the state – told BBC News no Russian official had been in touch with him. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the Kremlin had “no information” about this case.
At the time of the killing Shishimarin, 21, and other soldiers were traveling in a car they had seized after their convoy came under attack and they became separated from their unit.
When they spotted Mr Shelipov he was speaking on his phone, Shishimarin told the court. He says he was told to shoot him with an assault rifle.
His defence lawyer told the court on Friday that Shishimarin had only fired after twice refusing to carry out the order to shoot and that only one out of three to four rounds had hit the target.
He said Shishimarin had fired the rounds out of fear for his own safety and he questioned whether the defendant had intended to kill.
In one dramatic moment during the trial, the victim’s widow Kateryna Shelipova confronted Shishimarin. “Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?” she asked, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine.
“Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?”
The soldier had no answer to that. Asking forgiveness of the widow earlier, he said: “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me.”
Mrs. Shelipova told the BBC: “I feel very sorry for him but for a crime like that – I can’t forgive him.”
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