A Kyiv appeals court Friday reduced the life sentence of Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian soldier who was the first to be tried and convicted for war crimes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Shishimarin’s life sentence was reduced to 15 years following an appeal from his lawyer, who said Shishimarin’s actions were misclassified.
Shishimarin, a commander of the 4th Kantemirovskaya Tank Division of the Moscow Region, was captured and brought to Ukrain for trial following the murder of unarmed 62-year old Oleksandr Shelipov in the Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka. The act occurred in the early days of the conflict, on February 28, and the Prosecutor General ‘s Office named him the first Russian military man to be tried for killing a civilian in Ukraine.
On appeal Shishimarin’s counsel argued that his actions were “incorrectly displayed in the court verdict…there were no grounds for qualifying his actions as a violation of the rights and customs of war.” The court of appeals reduced the life sentence previously imposed, saying it would provide the reasoning for its decision on August 3. Shishimarin’s lawyers continue to argue that he had not intended to kill Shelipov, and cooperated throughout the entire trial, even partially admitting to his guilt.
The Secret Service of Ukraine (SBU) published a video following the murder wherein Shishimarin claimed that he was told to shoot a man talking on the phone while the Russian soldiers were driving in a stolen car to escape a Ukrainian attack. Later, in his trial before the Solomensky District Court of Kyiv, details surfaced showing Shelipov, a veteran of the Soviet military and KGB, was riding his bike in the street when he ran into the Russian soldiers. After an unknown soldier told Shishimarin to shoot the man, fearing he would report them to Ukrainian forces, Shishimarin fired several automatic rounds into the man’s head at close range.
The District Court of Kyiv found Shishimarin “guilty of violating the laws and customs of war, combined with the premeditated murder of a resident Oleksandr Shelipov.” The court sentenced him to life imprisonment on May 23, 2022.
Experts in Ukraine have said that the Shishimarin trial was one of the swiftest in Ukraine’s history. Currently the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has said it is looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, which include Russian soldiers and government officials.