A Ukrainian court on Monday convicted a 21-year-old Russian soldier guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to life in prison for murdering an unarmed civilian, the first such judgment since the invasion began three months ago.
The decision came as President Volodymyr Zelensky told elites gathering in Davos that slowing military supplies to Ukraine was costing thousands of lives, as he asked for additional weapons and tougher sanctions against Moscow.
As violent clashes raged in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is hitting cities and villages in an attempt to expand its control over the Donbass area, a Russian ambassador in Geneva resigned in protest, telling colleagues, “Never have I felt more embarrassed of my nation.”
Vadim Shishimarin, a Russian serviceman, watched from a glass defense box in a Kyiv courtroom as he was condemned in a trial that was broadcast around the globe — likely the first of many as Ukraine probes hundreds of suspected war crimes.
The Siberian sergeant acknowledged murdering Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old civilian while riding his bike in the hamlet of Chupakhivka in northeast Ukraine.
On February 28, he said he shot Shelipov under pressure from another soldier as they try to escape in a stolen car back into Russia.
Shishimarin apologized and asked for forgiveness from Shelipov’s widow, saying, “I was worried about what was going on.” I had no desire to murder.”
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However, prosecutors said he fired three to four bullets with the goal of murdering the civilian, and Judge Sergiy Agafonov handed him a life sentence.
The sergeant was also found guilty of premeditated murder with direct purpose, according to Agafonov.
Shishimarin’s lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said he would appeal the “most severe” verdict, arguing that “societal pressure” weighed on the decision.
International institutions are also probing abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces in places such as Bucha and Mariupol, which have become emblematic of the destruction and suffering of the war.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, from which Russians have been barred this year, Zelensky made a fresh appeal for Western support.
He revealed that 87 people had been killed in a Russian attack earlier this month on a military base in northern Ukraine, in what would be one of the largest single recorded strikes of the war.
Western countries have sent huge amounts of weapons and cash to Ukraine to help it repel Russia’s assault, and punished Moscow with unprecedented economic sanctions.
But Zelensky said tens of thousands of lives would have been saved if Kyiv had received “100 percent of our needs at once back in February”, when Russia invaded.
Ukraine, he said via videolink, “is paying dearly for freedom and independence and for this struggle”.
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Later Monday, Zelensky said Russia has carried out nearly 1,500 missile strikes and over 3,000 airstrikes against Ukraine in less than three months.
“Each time when we tell our partners that we need modern anti-missile equipment and modern military aviation, we are not just making a formal request,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation.
“Our request means the lives of many people, who wouldn’t have died, had we gotten the weapons that we are asking for.”
Shortly after Zelensky’s speech in Davos, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that 20 nations had pledged new arms, ammunition and other supplies to support Kyiv, while others were offering training for Ukraine’s military.
Ramping up his demands that Moscow be cut off from the global economy, Zelensky also called in Davos for an international oil embargo on Russia, punitive measures against all its banks and the shunning of its IT sector.
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He also urged all foreign companies to leave Russia — which many have already done: US coffee giant Starbucks said Monday it would close all its 130 cafes there, following a similar move by McDonald’s last week.
As Zelensky delivered his address, meanwhile, a counselor at Moscow’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Boris Bondarev, announced he was leaving his job after 20 years of diplomatic service in protest at Russia’s invasion of its Neighbour.
In the letter circulated to a number of diplomatic missions in Geneva and seen by AFP, he condemned the war as “not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia”.
Western support has helped Ukraine in many areas hold off Russia forces which, after initially moving on Kyiv, are now focused on securing and expanding their gains in eastern Donbas and on Ukraine’s southern coast.