Ukraine opens first war crimes trial of captured Russian

Image source: AP.

Russian Army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday, May 13, 2022. The trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian began on Friday, the first war crimes trial since Moscow’s invasion of his neighbor.

Highlights

  • Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge
  • They used the bridge to try to cross a river to the east
  • Ukraine’s airborne command released photos, video of damaged Russian pontoon bridge

Journalists filled a small courtroom in Kyiv for the trial of a captured Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian in the early days of the war – the first of dozens of war crimes reported by Ukraine’s top prosecutor.

As the trial against the 21-year-old Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin set off in the capital, Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they used to try to cross a river to the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s fight to save a war gone crooked.

Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River in Bilohorivka and at least 73 destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.

The British Ministry of Defense said Russia lost “significant armored maneuvers” from at least one tactical battalion group in the attack. A Russian battalion’s tactical group consists of about 1,000 soldiers.

“Implementing river crossings in a disputed environment is a very risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

What is the second development in this regard?

In other cases, a move by Finland and possibly Sweden to join NATO was questioned when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country “is not of a positive opinion” against the idea. He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Erdogan did not say outright that he would block the two nations from joining NATO. But the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, which means that each of its 30 member states has a veto over who can join.

An enlargement of NATO would be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who took up the war in what he said was an attempt to nullify the Alliance’s advance to the east. But in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, other countries along Russia’s flank fear they may be next.

With Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heart seemingly turning into a grinding war of attrition and Ukraine appealing for more weapons to ward off the better-equipped Russians, the EU’s foreign minister announced plans to give Kyiv another € 500 million (520 million dollars) to buy heavy weapons.

Read also: Ukraine sues a Russian soldier accused of war crimes

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed the heavy weapons that went to the front lines but acknowledged that there is no quick end to the war in sight.

“We are entering a new, long-term phase of the war,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Extremely difficult weeks await us. How many will there be? No one can say for sure. “

The battle for the Donbas has turned into a village by village, back and forth, with no major breakthroughs on either side and little ground gained. In his evening speech on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said no one could predict how long the war would last but that his country’s forces had made progress, including taking back six Ukrainian cities or villages in the past 24 hours.

Fierce fighting has been raging on the Siversky Donets River near the town of Severodonetsk, said Oleh Zhdanov, an independent Ukrainian military analyst. The Ukrainian military has launched counterattacks but has failed to halt Russia’s advance, he said.

“The fate of a large part of the Ukrainian army is being decided – there are about 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.

The Ukrainian military chief of the Luhansk region of Donbas said on Friday that troops had taken almost full control of Rubizhne, a city with a population of about 55,000 before the war.

In the ruined southern port of Mariupol, Ukrainian warriors stood in a steel factory facing continued Russian attacks on the city’s last stronghold. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said his troops would hold out “for as long as they could” despite a shortage of ammunition, food, water and medicine.

And in Kyiv, Ukrainian soldiers dressed in white protective suits loaded the bodies of Russian soldiers on chilled train cars on Friday. The bodies were wrapped in white body bags and stacked several layers deep.

Colonel Volodymyr Lyamzin, who oversaw the operation, said several hundred bodies were stored on trains in the capital and that there were several other storage trains elsewhere in the country. He said Ukraine was ready to hand over the bodies to Russia, but so far there has been no agreement to do so.

In the first case of war crimes brought to justice, Shyshimarin could face life in prison if convicted of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, four days into the invasion.

The defendant, wearing a blue and gray hoodie and gray training pants, was sitting in a small glass cage during the trial that lasted about 15 minutes and will be resumed on Wednesday. The trial will be closely monitored by international observers to ensure that the trial is fair.

Shyshimarin was asked a number of questions, including whether he understood his rights and whether he wanted a jury trial. He declined the latter.

His lawyer in Ukraine, Victor Ovsyanikov, has acknowledged that the case against Shyshimarin is strong and has not specified what the soldier’s defense will be.

Shyshimarin, a member of a tank unit captured by Ukrainian forces, admitted that he shot the civilian in a video posted by the Ukrainian security service and said he was ordered to do so.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said she was preparing war crimes against 41 Russian soldiers for crimes including bombing of civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting. She said that two accused of having bombed civilian infrastructure and residential buildings are in Ukrainian hands. It was unclear how many of the suspects would be brought to justice in their absence.

Read also: Russia warns of reprisals after Finland goes against NATO

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