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Russian soldier gets life in prison for killing Ukrainian man to end first war crimes trial

Russian soldier gets life in prison for killing Ukrainian man to end first war crimes trial
Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin is seen during his war crimes trial in court in Kyiv, Ukraine, last Friday. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE

May 23 (UPI) -- A Ukraine court on Monday sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison for killing a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian who was attempting to flee to safety a few days after Moscow's invasion in February.

The soldier, Vadim Shishimarin, has argued that he was following orders when he shot and killed the civilian, Oleksandr Shelipov, in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine.

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Shishimarin's was the first war crimes trial since the fighting began on Feb. 24. He pleaded guilty last week and received the life sentence on Monday.

Ukrainian prosecutor Iryna Venediktova said at trial that Shishimarin violated the "rules and customs of war" when he shot Shelipov outside of his home.

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Although Shishimarin entered a guilty plea, Ukrainian prosecutors proceeded with a full trial to bring evidence to light and hear from witnesses, including Shishimarin himself.

"I think for them it's important to try to establish not just guilt, but also to establish what has happened," Dapo Akande, an international law professor at the University of Oxford, told NBC News.

"They're trying to create a sort of historical narrative that 'This is what happened, and we want to show the world that this is what happened.'"

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Katerina Shelipov, the Ukrainian man's widow, identified Shishimarin as the soldier responsible for her husband's death.

Although she hoped that Shishimarin would get a life sentence, Shelipov said that she "would not mind" if he was part of a prisoner exchange to free Ukrainian soldiers who were captured at Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant.

Ukrainian officials are investigating hundreds of potential war crimes involving Russian forces since the invasion three months ago.

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War in Ukraine: Scenes from Kharkiv

A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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