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Russian soldier on trial asks widow of victim to forgive him
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KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war in Ukraine said Thursday he shot a civilian on the orders of two officers and begged his victim’s widow to forgive him.

sergeant. Vadim Shishimarin told the court that the officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was talking on his mobile phone, be able to report their location to Ukrainian forces.

The 21-year-old sergeant could face life in prison if convicted of shooting the Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern region of Sumy on February 28, four days after the start of the Russian invasion.

Looking subdued, Shishimarin said he initially disobeyed his immediate commander’s order to shoot the unarmed civilian, but had no choice but to follow the order when was repeated forcefully by another officer.

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the charges during Wednesday’s hearing.

On Thursday, he asked the victim’s widow, who was also appearing at the trial, to forgive him for what he had done.

“I realize you can’t forgive me, but I beg your pardon,” Shishimarin said.

The woman, Kateryna Shelipova, said her 62-year-old husband, Oleksandr Shelipov, had come out to check on what was going on when gunshots rang out just outside their house. When the shooting stopped soon after, she walked out to find her husband shot dead just outside their house.

“He was everything to me. He was my defender,” she said.

Shelipova told the court Shishimarin deserved a life sentence for killing her husband, but added she wouldn’t mind him being traded in a possible prisoner swap with Russia against the surrendered Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol.

Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, is being prosecuted under a section of Ukraine’s criminal code that deals with the laws and customs of war.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, raping and looting. It was not immediately clear how many suspects are in Ukrainian hands and how many will be tried in absentia.

As Ukraine’s first war crimes case, Shishimarin’s prosecution was closely watched. Investigators have gathered evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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