‘I didn’t want to kill, but that’s what happened’: Russian tank commander who murdered an innocent Ukrainian grandfather says ‘I’m truly sorry’ as his defence lawyer insists he is not guilty of war crimes
- Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, shot Oleksandr Shelypov, 62, in the head
- Russian tank commander said: ‘I didn’t mean to kill but that’s what happened’
- Defence lawyer asked the court to acquit Shishimarin on charges of war crimes
- He argued his client’s actions ‘were aimed at saving lives’ of his comrades
- Shishimarin earlier begged for ‘forgiveness’ from court and his victim’s widow
- But grinned as it was revealed his comrades were sent home in a prisoner swap and could no longer testify against him
The lawyer for the first Russian soldier on trial in Kyiv said in closing arguments on Friday that his client was ‘not guilty’ of premeditated murder and war crimes, even though he has admitted to killing a civilian.
‘I believe that (Vadim) Shishimarin is not guilty of the crime that he is accused of. I ask you to acquit my client,’ lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov told the court.
‘His actions were aimed at saving lives (of his comrades)… he was under pressure from his colleagues… his colleagues who gave the order bear more responsibility.’
Prosecutors this week requested a life sentence for Shishimarin for killing 62-year-old civilian Oleksandr Shelypov in the first days of the Russian offensive.
Shishimarin, who does not contest that he shot dead the civilian in east Ukraine, told the court Friday he was ‘truly sorry.’
‘I was nervous about what was going on. I didn’t want to kill, but that’s what happened’ he said, standing in the glass defence box, wearing a grey and blue hoodie.
The killing took place near the northeastern village of Chupakhivka on February 28, four days into Moscow’s invasion.
The Kremlin has said it was not informed of Shishimarin’s case and his lawyer said he had not had any contact with Russian officials.
The trial – the first of its kind since Russia invaded – is being seen as a public test of the independence of Ukraine’s judicial system.
Court adjourned earlier today and a verdict is expected to be delivered on Monday.
International institutions are simultaneously investigating abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces.
Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, a former tank sergeant in the Russian army, is facing life in jail after admitting war crimes charges on Wednesday
The dead-eyed killer grinned after prosecutors revealed that two of his comrades – who had been due to give evidence against him – had been sent back to Russia in a prisoner swap
Oleksandr Shelypov once served the Russian elite as part of the Soviet KGB, but was ultimately shot dead by Russian troops
Shishimarin (right) says he was ordered to shoot the man while he and his comrades were driving through Sumy province so he wouldn’t give away their position
The baby-faced Russian tank commander smirked in the dock yesterday as it emerged he could be sent home in a prisoner swap.
Shishimarin hung his head and begged for ‘forgiveness’ when he was cross-examined by the widow of Mr Shelypov, whom he shot in the head with an AK-47 assault rifle on the fifth day of Russia’s invasion.
But the dead-eyed killer grinned after prosecutors revealed that two of his comrades – who had been due to give evidence against him – had been sent back to Russia in a prisoner swap.
News of a possible deal with Moscow emerged when Mr Shelypov’s widow Kateryna told judges she would approve of swapping Shishimarin for Ukrainians captured in the Azovstal factory in Mariupol.
The 61-year-old said: ‘I want him to get life, but if he is exchanged for defenders of the Azovstal, our boys from Mariupol, I will not mind. I will not be against it.’
Russian forces are holding more than 1,700 Ukrainian fighters who had been living in tunnels at the plant this week following a two-month siege that has made them national heroes. Kyiv said it was negotiating an exchange of the fighters for Russian prisoners.
But Russia has not confirmed that a swap will take place, amid suggestions that Putin may put the Ukrainians on trial.
In a tense exchange at Kyiv’s Appeal Court, Mrs Shelypova confronted her husband’s killer, demanding: ‘Tell me what did you feel when you killed my husband? Do you repent of this crime?’
Shishimarin is pictured being led away from court, where he will face life in jail when he next appears at his sentencing hearing
Court adjourned earlier today and a verdict is expected to be delivered on Monday (Shishimarin hangs his head in the glass defence box)
Kateryna Shelypova, whose husband Oleksandr was shot dead by Shishimarin, confronted him in court yesterday – demanding to know why he had come to Ukraine
He replied: ‘I admit my guilt. I understand you can’t forgive me. I ask for your forgiveness.’
Mrs Shelpova said: ‘Tell me please, why did you come here? To protect us? From whom? From my husband who you killed?’
Shishimarin responded: ‘We were just following our orders.’ Prosecutors showed the judges three AK-47s – including the murder weapon – that they said were seized from Shishimarin and his comrades after their arrest.
The court heard that Mr Shelypov – a former KGB bodyguard – was pushing his bicycle home and speaking on his phone when he was shot yards from his front door on February 28 in the north-eastern village of Chupakhivk.
Giving evidence in court for the first time, Shishimarin said he was in the rear of a stolen Volkswagen Passat as he and other Russian troops fled a Ukrainian ambush.
Shelypova (pictured) told the court that losing her husband ‘is everything for me’ as Shishimarin begged her to forgive him
Kateryna Shelypova (bottom right), confronted Russian solider Vadim Shishimarin (standing with his head bowed, top left) in a Kyiv court after he admitted killing her husband
Captive Russian soldier Ivan Matysov testifies on charges against Russian soldier, Vadim Shishimarin of war crimes for killing a civilian, at a courthouse in Kyiv on May 19, 2022
They had come under attack while trying to evacuate troops from his unit who had been injured by another Russian tank in a so-called friendly fire incident.
He said an officer ‘screamed’ at him to shoot Mr Shelypov, adding: ‘I did not want to. He started to say in a forceful tone that I should shoot.
‘He was saying I was going to put us all in danger if I don’t. I shot him at short range with an automatic burst. It killed him. I did not want to kill him. I shot him so they would leave me alone.’
As they approached the next village they were attacked by a band of villagers armed with hunting rifles. Shishimarin said the officer who had ordered him to murder Mr Shelypov was killed.
The survivors hid overnight before handing themselves in.
His account was backed by Russian PoW Ivan Matysov, 20, who said: ‘Vadim did not want to shoot the civilian, but the officer was shouting at him, saying we would all die because of his inaction, so he fired three or four rounds.’
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