Russian Soldier, 21, Thrown in Prison for Life for War Crime

Vadim Shishimarin says he was following orders to kill 62-year-old Ukrainian, asks widow to forgive him
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2022 6:36 AM CDT
Russian Soldier, 21, Thrown in Prison for Life for War Crime
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(Newser) – In a big first in the ongoing war in Ukraine, a Russian soldier has been convicted of a war crime and sentenced to life behind bars. The Washington Post reports that 21-year-old Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin heard his fate Monday for a crime committed on Feb. 28, just days after the war started. Although Russia has consistently rebuffed reports that its forces have been going after and killing civilians in the three-month conflict, Shishimarin pleaded guilty last week of shooting 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov while the latter was pushing his bicycle near the northeastern town of Chupakhivka, in Sumy province.

Shelipov was said to have been talking on his phone when he encountered Shishimarin and his fellow Russian soldiers from the 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division in a car they'd stolen. The convoy they'd originally been in had been attacked, causing them to split up from their unit, per the BBC. Shishimarin claims his fellow officers, afraid Shelipov would call in a sighting of the Russians, ordered him to shoot Shelipov on the spot. In court, Shishimarin's defense attorney says his client didn't want to shoot, and that two times he pulled back from doing so. When he finally did fire, he purposely shot without aiming correctly, his lawyer told the court. However, one of those shots from Shishimarin's Kalashnikov rifle hit Shelipov in the head, killing him "just a few dozen yards from his home," per the New York Times, citing a Ukrainian intel probe.

Shelipov's widow confronted Shishimarin in court. "Why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?" she asked him, sarcastically referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin's reason for invading Ukraine, per the BBC. "Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?" "I ask for forgiveness [though] I understand that you will not be able to forgive me," Shishimarin replied, per the Post. The charge against Shishimarin was the "violation of the rules and customs of war," which carried a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison; he got the max. Shelipov's widow says that although she agrees with the sentence, she would approve of a prisoner swap with Russia, in which Ukrainian soldiers taken from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol would be allowed to come home. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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