At the first war crimes trial in Ukraine, the accused 21-year-old Russian soldier was sentenced to life imprisonment. The almost childlike Wadim Sch. as a prisoner of war confessed to killing a 62-year-old civilian on February 28 in the village of Chupakhivka in the Sumy region of north-eastern Ukraine.
The court in Kyiv on Monday saw it as proven after the man’s confession that the tanker shot a 62-year-old civilian after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The internationally acclaimed case also highlights the brutal actions of the Russian troops sent to Ukraine by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin.
At the end of February, Alexander Schelipow was on his way by bike when Vadim Sch. according to evidence, shot him with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Katerina Shelipova found her husband dead on the street – with a shot in the head, as she said in court. “He was everything to me. He was my protector.” All of this happened a few meters from the house. She herself saw the suspect’s car.
Vadim Sch. showed regret in his closing remarks last week: “I regret it. I very much regret it. I did not refuse and I am ready to accept any measures that will be imposed.”
His defense attorney Viktor Ovsjannikow demanded an acquittal. “He was carrying out an order, even though it was a criminal order,” the lawyer said. But the public prosecutor’s office does not accept that.
“This is just one of many cases that have transpired since February 24. A woman lost her husband, children lost their father, grandchildren lost their grandfather,” prosecutor Andriy Sinyuk said.
Vadim S., who hails from the Irkutsk region of Siberia, said he and his tank column came under fire after Russia invaded Ukraine. They then stole a car to escape. And the older man was a witness.
“There was a man talking on the phone. Ensign Makeyev ordered to shoot,” said Vadim Sh. in court. Makejev, who he does not know better, shouted at him. After an initial refusal, he fired a short burst of fire. The group of five soldiers feared being betrayed, he explained.
Later he went into captivity himself because he wanted to live and “not fight”. “I do not deny my guilt.”
Another Russian soldier who went with him to captivity confirmed the version in court. The commander was 25 to 30 years old, the witness said. They had been told that the officer was now dead.
Katerina Shelipova, the widow, demanded life imprisonment for the soldier. “But if he is exchanged for one of our Mariupol defenders, then I’m not against it.”
According to Moscow, more than 2,400 Ukrainian fighters have been taken prisoner by the Russians from the Azov steelworks in the port city of Mariupol. Russia describes them as staunch neo-Nazis who have committed war crimes themselves.
A whole wave of lawsuits in Ukraine and Russia can now be expected. In the end, the sides could once again agree on prisoner exchanges. For Ukraine, however, this is just the beginning of coming to terms with countless war crimes since the Russian invasion began three months ago.
Russian troops have meanwhile withdrawn from the north-eastern areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy. After their departure, reports of atrocities sparked global outrage. More than 400 bodies were found in the Kiev suburb of Bucha alone. Many crimes have also been documented in the suburbs of Irpin and Borodyanka.
The mother of the soldier Wadym Sch. told the Kremlin-critical portal Meduza in an interview that she first heard about the war in Ukraine when she found out about her son’s imprisonment on March 1. Relatives therefore played her a video in which her son can be seen on the Internet.
Unlike many websites, the YouTube video platform is still accessible in Russia. The mother also said that she now knows many parents whose children are in captivity. She wrote to Putin because she wanted her son back. But there was no answer.
Kiev journalist Volodymyr Solkin, Vadim Sh. met and has meanwhile conducted many interviews with prisoners and mothers of dead Russian soldiers, was appalled that hardly anyone knew what Russia was doing in Ukraine.