KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian court has sentenced a captured Russian soldier to the maximum life sentence for killing a civilian, and the Kremlin has hinted it may bring some of the fighters who surrendered to justice. Mariupol steel plant.
Meanwhile, in a rare public expression of opposition to the war within the ranks of Russia’s elite, a veteran Kremlin diplomat resigned and sent a scathing letter to his foreign colleagues on Monday in which he said about the invasion: “Never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24.”
Additionally, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia in a video address to world leaders and leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Separately, he revealed one of the deadliest strikes of the war, a missile attack on a village near kyiv that killed nearly 90 people.
And on the battlefield, heavy fighting raged in Donbass to the east, where forces from Moscow stepped up their shelling. Towns not under Russian control were constantly shelled, and a Ukrainian official said Russian forces were targeting civilians trying to flee.
In the first of what could be a slew of war crimes trials held by Ukraine, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was convicted of the murder of a 62-year-old man who was shot in the head in a village in the northeast region of Sumy at the start of the war.
Shishimarin, a member of a tank unit, had claimed he was following orders and he apologized to the man’s widow in court.
His Ukrainian-appointed defense attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, argued that his client was unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” and massive casualties that Russian troops suffered during their invasion. He said he would appeal.
Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating thousands of potential war crimes. Russian forces in Mariupol shelled a theater where civilians were sheltering and hit a maternity ward. Following Moscow’s withdrawal from the vicinity of kyiv a few weeks ago, mass graves were discovered and the streets were littered with bodies in towns like Bucha.
Ahead of Shishimarin’s sentencing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was unable to defend the soldier but would consider trying to do so “through other channels”.
Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law expert at the University of Notre Dame, said trying Shishimarin could prove “extremely detrimental to Ukrainian soldiers in the hands of Russia.” She said Russia might decide to hold “show trials” of Ukrainians to boost the morale of its own soldiers and spread misinformation.
Russian authorities have threatened to hold trials for captured Ukrainians, namely fighters who resisted the destroyed steel mill in Mariupol, the last stronghold of resistance in the strategic southern port city. They surrendered and were taken prisoner last week, by which time Moscow claimed the seizure of Mariupol was complete.
Russia’s top investigative body said it intended to interview Mariupol defenders to “identify nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.
Russian authorities have seized on the far-right origins of one of the regiments there, calling the fighters of the Azov regiment “Nazis” and accusing their commander without proof of “numerous atrocities”. Russia’s prosecutor general has asked the country’s Supreme Court to designate the Azovs. Regiment a terrorist organization.
Family members of the fighters have pleaded for their possible return to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange.
Elsewhere, Boris Bondarev, a veteran Russian diplomat at the UN office in Geneva, resigned and sent a letter denouncing the “war of aggression unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bondarev told The Associated Press: “It’s intolerable what my government is doing now.”
In his letter, Bondarev said that those who engineered the war “want only one thing – to stay in power forever, to live in pompous and tasteless palaces, to sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the whole of the Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and total impunity.”
He also said that the Russian Foreign Ministry speaks only of “war, lies and hatred”.
At the Davos forum, Zelenskyy said sanctions against the Kremlin must go further. He called for an embargo on Russian oil, a complete cut off from trade and a withdrawal of foreign companies from the country.
Later, in his evening address to the nation, Zelensky said four missiles killed 87 people last week in the town of Desna, 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of kyiv. The dead were tallied after the debris was cleared, he said.
On the battlefield, Russian forces have stepped up their bombardment of Donbass, the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories that Russia is determined to capture.
Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said three civilians died in Russian attacks on Monday and heavy fighting continued near the Luhansk region. The Donbass includes the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
He said the Russians were decimating cities in their attempt to take them over. Only about 320,000 people remain of the region’s pre-war population of 1.6 million, and Russian forces are targeting evacuation efforts, he said.
“They are killing us. They kill residents during the evacuation,” Kyrylenko said.
In the Luhansk region, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, local authorities reported that a bridge leading to the administrative center of Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed, leaving the partially encircled town accessible by a single road.
Becatoros brought from Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Danica Kirka in London and other AP staff from around the world contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine