Shishimarin admitted fatally shooting 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov, who was pushing his bicycle near the village of Chupakhivka, near the Russian border, during the early days of the invasion in late February.
Shelipov “died on the spot just a few meters from his home,” according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova.
Shishimarin’s charge, “violation of the rules and customs of war,” was punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment.
Shelipov’s widow said last week she would like Shishimarin to be sentenced to life imprisonment but that she would be open to exchanging him for Ukrainian fighters who were taken to Russian-held territory from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
Prosecutors argued that Shishimarin, a member of Russia’s 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya tank division, committed a war crime when he fired multiple rounds from his rifle at Shelipov. Shishimarin said he was ordered by his fellow soldiers to shoot Shelipov because he was talking on a cellphone and they feared he would report their location after they had fled a nearby battle in a stolen car.
Shishimarin was represented by a Ukrainian court-appointed lawyer, who said that the case against his client was strong. Still, it was important to preserve Shishimarin’s human rights to show him that Ukraine is “a country different to the one he is from,” his attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, told the New York Times.
Shishimarin said he did not want to kill Shelipov and that he opened fire only because he was ordered to do so. Ovsyanikov said that Shishimarin had feared for his own safety if he had not complied and that the shots he fired were aimless, Reuters reported.
“I personally think that it should not be this young man in the dock, but the senior leadership of the other country that I think is guilty of unleashing this war,” Ovsyanikov said, according to Reuters.
Throughout the invasion, Moscow has struggled to manage young, inexperienced troops who have suffered low morale and at times seemed uncommitted to the cause.
A separate trial involving two Russian soldiers charged with war crimes in the alleged shelling of civilian targets in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine is ongoing. Legal experts have told The Washington Post that Ukraine, which is party to the European Convention on Human Rights, appears to be adhering to international guidelines on prosecuting war crimes, including the right of the defendant to a fair trial by an independent court.
Shelipov’s family confronted Shishimarin last week while he sat in a glass defendant’s cell. Shelipov’s widow asked the soldier, “Please tell me, what did you feel toward my husband?” Shishimarin replied: “Yes, I admit guilt. I understand that you will not be able to forgive me. I ask for forgiveness for what was done.”
The widow, Kateryna Shelipova, invoked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unfounded justifications for the war — that Moscow was simply rescuing Ukrainians from “Nazis” — asking the soldier: “What did you come to us for? You came to protect us? From whom? You ‘protected’ me from my husband, whom you killed.”
Steve Hendrix, David L. Stern and Claire Parker contributed to this report.