A RUSSIAN baby-faced killer who shot an unarmed cyclist dead in Ukraine has pleaded guilty to war crimes.
In the first war crimes trial, 21-year-old Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin admitted killing the civilian and claimed he was ordered to by his commander.
Shishimarin was driving in a stolen vehicle with other soldiers when they spotted a 62-year-old cyclist using a phone in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka near Sumy, during the first week of the war.
He is alleged to have been told to shoot the civilian to stop him from telling Ukrainian defenders their position.
It is the first of thousands of potential Russian war crimes to go to court and the soldier faces a life jail term of 10-15 years.
The International Criminal Court has sent a group of 42 investigators to Ukraine to launch the largest ever war crimes probe into Russian atrocities.
The victim’s widow, named Kateryna, sat just two yards from her husband’s killer with tears in her eyes as he admitted his guilt.
She sat with hands clasped as the prosecutor set out his case and heard the Russian soldier admit murder with his Kalashnikov assault rifle.
The judge asked: “Do you accept your guilt?”Shishimarin, in a grey metal and glass cage in court, replied: “Yes.”
Shyshimarin, a captured member of a tank unit, first appeared at the Solomyanskyy district court in Kyiv last week.
Most read in US News
Ukraine’s top prosecutor is probing whether Vladimir Putin’s troops violated Ukrainian and international law by allegedly killing, torturing and abusing thousands of Ukrainian civilians.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova’s office said it is looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects – including Russian soldiers and government officials.
Many of the alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow’s forces withdrew from around the capital of Kyiv – exposing mass graves and streets strewn with bodies in nearby towns.
On Thursday, Shyshimarin’s lawyer, Victor Ovsyanikov, said he and his client had not yet decided how he will plead.
Prosecutors said Shyshimarin was part of a group of Russian troops that had been defeated by the fierce Ukrainian resistance on February 28 – just four days after the invasion.
As the Russians fled, they opened fire on a car and stole the vehicle.
They then drove to Chupahivka – a village in the Sumy region about 200 miles east of Kyiv.
Venediktova said the Russian soldiers spotted a man walking on the pavement and talking on his phone.
Shyshimarin was allegedly ordered to kill the unarmed civilian so he wouldn’t be able to report the brutes to the Ukrainian authorities.
He fired his Kalashnikov rifle through the open window and brutally shot the victim in the head.
He died at the scene just a few metres from his home.
The prosecutor has not identified who gave the order.
The Security Service of Ukraine posted a short video of Shyshimarin speaking in front of the camera and briefly describing how he shot the man.
The SBU described the video as one of the “first confessions of the enemy invaders”.
Shyshimarin said: “I was ordered to shoot, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt. I shot one (round) at him. He falls. And we kept on going.”
As the inaugural war-crimes case in Ukraine, Shyshimarin’s prosecution is being watched closely.
Volodymyr Yavorskyy, coordinator at the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kyiv, said activists will be monitoring the Russian soldier’s trial to ensure his legal rights are protected.
He said: “It can be difficult to maintain the neutrality of court proceedings during wartime.
Yavorskyy said the observance of the trial’s rules and norms “will determine how similar cases will be handled in the future”.
The UK has sent war crimes experts to help Ukraine with its investigations into atrocities by Russian invaders.
The Foreign Office said the team of experts will support the Ukrainian government in gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes and include experts in conflict-related sexual violence.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “Russia has brought barbarity to Ukraine and committed vile atrocities, including against women.
“British expertise will help uncover the truth and hold Putin’s regime to account for its actions. Justice will be done.”
It comes as the UK’s defence secretary said Russian soldiers are using “mobile crematoriums” to cover up their own war crimes – and the true extent of their army’s death toll in Ukraine.
Ben Wallace said Putin’s commanders in Ukraine had refused to tell the truth throughout the war.
In a speech last week at the National Army Museum in London, he said: “Since February we have witnessed a systemic refusal to tell the truth up the chain of command, and it is playing out.
“Consider the fact alone that mobile crematoria trundle around the battlefields not just to hide Russian war crimes, they are for their own soldiers’ corpses as well.”