A Russian soldier has agreed he is “totally” guilty of murdering an elderly, unarmed Ukrainian man.
Ukraine has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes committed by Russia and prosecutors are so far preparing cases against 41 soldiers for offences including murder, rape, looting, and bombing civilian infrastructure.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is the first to face trial in Kyiv and did so in a packed courtroom where he came face-to-face with the widow of the 62-year-old man he is accused of killing.
The Russian sergeant pleaded guilty to shooting the man in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region during the first days of the invasion.
Prosecutors allege Mr Shishimarin and four other soldiers encountered the civilian, who was riding a bicycle near Chupakhivka, after stealing a car on February 28.
It was alleged the Russian soldier was ordered by a fellow soldier to take aim through the window of the car and use a Kalinhnicov – also known as an AK-47 – assault rifle to shoot the Ukrainian man.
Prosecutors said the young soldier was told “to kill a civilian so he would not report them to Ukrainian defenders”.
Prosecutor Andriy Syniu said the order was not considered a military order and therefore could not protect the accused from prosecution.
“The person who gave an ‘order’ isn’t his commander,” Mr Syniu said.
“He [Mr Shishimarin] was aware of that. The person who gave the instruction was aware of that.”
The Russian soldier faces life in prison if convicted of the war crime.
The BBC spoke to the victim’s widow, Kateryna, who said she felt “sorry” for the accused but “for a crime like that – I can’t forgive him”.
The judge asked Mr Shishimarin: “Do you accept your guilt?”
Sitting behind the glass of a cage, the accused replied: “Yes”.
“Totally?,” he was asked.
“Yes,” the accused said.
The court case was adjourned.
The next known soldier to face court will be Mikhail Romanov who is accused of rape and murder, and other Russians would be expected to be trialled in coming days.