The first trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes in Ukraine since the invasion concluded Monday with Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old from Siberia, sentenced to life in prison for premeditated murder and violating international laws for war.
Shishimarin, a captured Russian tank-unit sergeant, fatally shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old civilian, in the head in late February. Shishimarin’s defense had argued he was carrying out a direct order that he initially disobeyed. He had pleaded guilty and asked Shelipov’s widow, Kateryna, for forgiveness.
Kateryna Shelipova said last week she wanted a life sentence to be handed down. But she also said she would be willing to see Shishimarin returned to Russia in an exchange for Ukrainian fighters who surrendered by Russia forces at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
During the trial the three-judge panel heard that Shishimarin was ordered to kill the man so he wouldn’t be able to report them to Ukrainian military authorities. Shishimarin fired his Kalashnikov rifle at the victim through the open window of a car.
“I was nervous about what was going on. I didn’t want to kill,” Shishimarin said at the hearing in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. Judge Serhiy Ahafonov said he did not consider the defendant’s remorse sincere.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting. Venediktova’s office has collected more than 10,700 allegations of war crimes against Russia involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.
►Russia pressed its offensive in eastern Ukraine on Sunday as Polish President Andrzej Duda traveled to Kyiv to support Poland’s European Union aspirations, becoming the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of the war.
►German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he will “work actively” to enable grain exports from Ukraine and to supply fertilizer to Ukraine, Reuters reported. Russia has blocked Black Sea ports that are vital to exporting Ukrainian wheat and other crops.
Even with the war in Ukraine going much worse than expected for Russia, the probability of Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying a nuclear weapon is “low but not zero,” former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates said Sunday.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan,” Gates said Russia’s use of a tactical weapon would prompt a strong response from the West, including establishing a no-fly zone over Ukrainian skies. In addition, he said such a move wouldn’t “change the military equation on the ground” because Ukrainian forces are spread widely and are fierce in their resistance.
“The other thing that I hope somebody around Putin is reminding him is that, in that part of the world, and particularly in eastern Ukraine, the winds tend to blow from the west,” Gates said. “If you set off a tactical nuclear weapon in eastern Ukraine, the radiation is going to go into Russia.”
Gates, who served as defense secretary under Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama from 2006-2011, said the Biden administration should have started arming Ukraine for a conflict with the Russians months earlier. But he gives President Joe Biden high marks for rallying the U.S. allies and assembling a coalition to confront Russia, resisting calls for a no-fly zone – which would require deeper intervention – and for refusing to bite on Putin’s nuclear threats.
Gates pointed out that sanctions from the West and failures on the battlefield have dealt a major blow to Russia and its global standing. “Putin will remain a pariah,” Gates said: “He has put Russia really behind the eight ball economically, militarily, and because now people are going to look at the Russian military and say, ‘You know, this was supposed to be this fantastic military. Well, they give a good parade, but in actual combat, not so hot.'”
Russia has permanently barred nearly 1,000 Americans from entering the country in response to the United States’ support of Ukraine in the war, and the list includes numerous elected leaders but conspicuously leaves out a prominent one – former President Donald Trump.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were among the 963 banned by Russia, a largely symbolic gesture.
Recent living former presidents like Barack Obama and George W. Bush were not on the banned list, but Trump’s name stands out as he has frequently been accused of being too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two days before the Feb. 24 invasion, Trump referred to Putin’s strategy toward Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy.”
– Jordan Mendoza
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