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Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing Ukrainian civilian in first war crimes trial

A Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian has pleaded guilty in the first war crimes trial of the war in Ukraine.

The 21-year-old soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy region. When asked by the court in Kyiv how he pleaded, he responded “fully” guilty. The circumstances of his arrest on February 28 remain unclear.

Prosecutors say that Shishimarin was ordered to shoot the civilian to stop him from telling Ukrainian soldiers about the Russians’ location. If convicted, Shishimarin faces life in prison.

The trial started in earnest on Wednesday in a district court of Kyiv, after Shishimarin appeared in a preliminary hearing last week.

His lawyer, Victor Ovsyanikov, was appointed to defend Shishimarin by a Ukrainian center promoting free legal aid. The lawyer acknowledged last week that the case against the soldier was strong but that the court would make the final decision over what evidence to allow.

Moscow denied that it was committing war crimes in Ukraine, and said it was a “fake” and “egregious” dramatization to use such terms, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, told reporters on Wednesday, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

Peskov also said that Moscow was not able to provide assistance to Shishimarin, because of the absence of Russia’s diplomatic mission in Ukraine.

The war crimes trial has been adjourned until Thursday, CNN reported, because too many members of the media were crowding the room in Kyiv.

Last week, on the day of Shishimarin’s first hearing, Ukrainian authorities said that more cases are forthcoming: “We have over 11000 ongoing cases of war crimes and already 40 suspects. I am confident that in the nearest future we will see other cases being transferred to courts and perpetrators appearing before judges. We will ensure that these cases are brought to their logical end,” Iryna Venediktova, the Ukrainian prosecutor general, tweeted.

This comes in the wake of evidence of massacres across Ukraine, including in the city of Bucha, near Kyiv. Some of Ukraine’s allies, including Spain, Poland, the U.S. and the U.K., have accused Russia of committing genocide.

Kyiv’s general prosecutor was not immediately available for comment.

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