The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-held territory.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner swap, but some Russian officials said on Tuesday they could be tried and even executed. Russian State Duma deputies have said they will propose new laws that could derail prisoner swaps of fighters Moscow calls “terrorists”.
Russian investigators said they plan to question the soldiers and may charge them with “crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population in southeastern Ukraine”.
Tuesday evening, seven buses carrying Ukrainian soldiers left the Azovstal factory in the port city and arrived at a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka in Donetsk, Reuters reported.
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Learn more about the war crimes trial set to begin today.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, will appear in kyiv’s Solomyansky District Court from 2:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT) charged with war crimes and premeditated murder in the death of a 62-year-old man in the northeast of Ukraine on February 28.
The soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia faces a life sentence.
“He understands what he is accused of,” his lawyer Viktor Ovsiannikov told AFP, without revealing the defense case.
Ukrainian authorities say he is cooperating with investigators and admitting the facts of the incident which happened just four days after the start of the Russian invasion.
Prosecutors said Shishimarin was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy was attacked.
He and four other soldiers stole a car and, while traveling near the village of Shupakhivka in the Sumy region, they encountered a 62-year-old man on a bicycle.
“One of the soldiers ordered the accused to kill the civilian so that he would not report them,” the prosecution said.
Shishimarin then fired a Kalashnikov assault rifle from the window of the vehicle and “the man died instantly, a few dozen meters from his home,” they added in a statement.
In early May, the Ukrainian authorities announced his arrest without giving details, while publishing a video in which Shishimarin said he had come to fight in Ukraine to “support his mother financially”.
He explained his actions by saying, “I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell and we continued on our way.
His attorney said the case was proving difficult. “This is the first such case in Ukraine with such an indictment. There is no relevant legal practice or verdicts on such cases. We will settle this,” he said. .
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, underlined the importance of the case for her country in a series of tweets.
“We have over 11,000 ongoing war crimes cases and already 40 suspects,” she said.
“With this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or aided in the commission of crimes in Ukraine must not escape responsibility.”
Two Russian soldiers are to be tried from Thursday for firing rockets at civilian infrastructure in the northeast region of Kharkiv.
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
The big news today is that the first war crimes trial since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine will open in Kyiv. It is about a Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed civilian, a 62-year-old man in northeastern Ukraine, in the days after the start of the invasion.
The trial, which is expected to be followed by several others, will test Ukraine’s justice system at a time when international institutions are also carrying out their own investigations into abuses by Russian forces.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, will appear in kyiv’s Solomyansky District Court on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder, the soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia faces a life sentence.
Here’s what else you need to know:
- The International Criminal Court sent a 42-member team to Ukraine on Tuesday to investigate alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion in what he called the largest such deployment in its history.
- The United States will create a new unit to research, document and publicize alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The Conflict Observatory will “capture, analyze and make widely accessible evidence of Russian war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” the US State Department said.
- Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine stallofficials said on Tuesday, with both sides blaming each other and Moscow indicating a return to talks could be difficult. Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister said he believed no peace deal could be reached if negotiators tried to “transfer the dialogue” to focus on what the West had to say instead of the immediate situation in Ukraine. This ruled out chances for progress in the talks, he added. “We always say we are ready for negotiations…but we had no other choice,” Lavrov said.
- The fate of more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers who ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-held territory. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner swap, but some Russian officials said they could face trial or even execution.
- Eight people died and 12 were injured after Russia launched a missile strike on the village of Desna in the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian state emergency service. Regional Governor Viacheslav Chaus said Russia launched four missiles around 5 a.m. local time on Tuesday. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he said.
- A village in the Russian province of Kursk, on the border with Ukraine, came under Ukrainian firesaid the regional governor, but there were no injuries.
We’ll be blogging throughout the day, so keep following as we bring you the news as it happens.