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First Life Sentence Handed Down in Connection to Russia-Ukraine War

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A Russian soldier was sentenced by a Ukrainian court Monday to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to killing a civilian.

The soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, said he shot and killed a 62-year-old civilian to death in late February, just days after the conflict erupted. Shishimarin, who was captured as part of a Russian tank battalion, apologized to the victim’s widow in court.

Shishimarin “saw a civilian on the pavement, Oleksandr Shelipov,” the court said, according to reports. “Shishimarin knowing that Shelipov is a civilian and is unarmed and does not pose any threat to him–fired several shots at Shelipov from his AK-gun.”

“The cause of Shelipov’s death was a shot in the head that resulted in crushing of the skull,” said the court, adding that his sentence may be appealed within 30 days.

The soldier’s defense attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, had argued that his client was unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” after Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Shishimarin will appeal the verdict, Ovsyanikov said, according to an Associated Press reporter.

Shishimarin had told the court that he at first disobeyed his immediate commanding officer’s order to shoot the unarmed civilian but had no choice but to follow the order when it was repeated forcefully by another officer. Abraham, however, noted that following orders is not a defense under the law.

Prosecutor Andriy Sunyuk suggested that more war crimes trials may be held in the future against Russian soldiers, and he added that he hopes the verdict will send a message to Moscow.

“I think that all other law enforcement agencies will move along the path that we have traveled,” he told the court Monday.

“This will be a good example for other occupiers who may not yet be on our territory but are planning to come,” added Sunyuk, as reported by CNN. “Or for those who are here now and plan to stay and fight. Or maybe they will think that it’s time to leave here for their own territory.”

Earlier Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state media that Moscow was concerned about the trial as Russia doesn’t have the ability to “protect his interests on-site.” AP reported that Shishimarin’s lawyer was appointed by a Ukrainian court.

“This doesn’t mean that we won’t consider the possibility of continuing attempts [to help the serviceman] through other channels,” Peskov said, without elaborating.

Ukrainian civil liberties advocate Volodymyr Yavorskyy said it was “an extremely harsh sentence for one murder during the war.” But Aarif Abraham, a British-based human rights lawyer, said the trial was conducted “with what appears to be full and fair due process,” including access to an attorney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips

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Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.

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