Ukraine brings Russian soldier accused of war crime to justice

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian opened Friday, the first war crimes trial since Moscow invaded its neighbor.

Dozens of journalists gathered in a small courtroom in the Ukrainian capital where the suspect appeared in a small glass cage for the start of a trial that has drawn international attention amid accusations of repeated atrocities by Russian forces.

sergeant. Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. He could go to life in prison.

The killing took place early in the war, when Russian tanks advancing on kyiv were unexpectedly routed and the tank crews retreated.

Shyshimarin, a member of a tank unit that was captured by Ukrainian forces, admitted shooting the civilian in a video released by Ukraine’s Security Service.

“I was ordered to shoot,” Shyshimarin said of the Feb. 28 killing. “I shot him. He falls. And we continued. »

Shyshimarin’s video statement is “one of the first confessions of enemy invaders”, according to Ukraine’s security service.

The trial comes as Russia’s campaign to take eastern Ukraine progresses slowly – but its invasion has had widespread repercussions beyond the battlefield.

Two and a half months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent a shiver of fear through Moscow’s neighbors, Finland’s president and prime minister announced on Thursday that the Nordic country should apply immediately. for NATO membership, the military defense pact founded in part to counter the Soviet Union.

“It was you (Russia) who caused this. Look at yourself in the mirror,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said.

Finland’s parliament has yet to weigh in, but the announcement means it is almost certain to apply – and be admitted. The process could take months. Similarly, Sweden plans to place itself under the protection of NATO.

This would represent a major change in the European security landscape: Sweden avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, while Finland adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviets in World War II.

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The Kremlin has warned that it could take “military-technical” retaliatory measures.

Public opinion in both countries shifted dramatically in favor of NATO membership after the invasion, sparking fears in countries along Russia’s flank that they could be next. .

Such an expansion of the alliance would leave Russia surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic and would represent a bitter setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had hoped to divide and roll back NATO in Europe, but rather the opposite is happening.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would welcome Finland and Sweden with open arms.

NATO’s delivery of weapons and other military support to Ukraine has been key to kyiv’s surprising ability to thwart the invasion, and the Kremlin has again warned that the aid could lead to a direct conflict between NATO and Russia.

“There is always a risk that such a conflict will turn into a full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that will be catastrophic for everyone,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.

On the ground, the British Ministry of Defense said on Friday that Russia had made no significant progress despite concentrating forces in the Donbass after the withdrawal of troops from other regions.

British military officials said Russia had lost “significant” elements of at least one battalion battle group – around 1,000 troops – and equipment that had been used to rapidly deploy a makeshift pontoon bridge as it was attempting to cross the Siverskyi Donets River west of Severodonetsk.

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a very risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure on Russian commanders to advance their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily update. information.

As Russian fighting and strikes persisted, teachers tried to restore some sense of normality after the war closed Ukrainian schools and devastated the lives of millions of children. In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, classes are held in a metro station used as a bomb shelter that has become home to many families.

“It helps support them mentally. Because now there is a war, and many have lost their homes…some people’s parents are fighting now,” said teacher Valeriy Leiko. Partly because of the lessons, he says, “they feel someone loves them.”

School-age children joined Leiko around a table for history and art lessons in the subway station, where children’s drawings now line the walls.

An older student, Anna Fedoryaka, was watching online from her basement the lectures on Ukrainian literature given by Kharkiv professor Mykhailo Spodarets.

Internet connections were a problem, Fedoryaka said. And, “It’s hard to concentrate when you have to do your homework with explosions near your window.”

At least two civilians were killed Thursday on the outskirts of Kharkiv, authorities said. The attacks also damaged a building housing a humanitarian aid unit, municipal offices and hospital facilities, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, the mayor of the suburban town of Derhachi, wrote in a Telegram article.

None of the sites “had anything to do with military infrastructure,” Zadorenko said.

Ukraine’s military chief of the eastern Luhansk region said on Friday that Russian forces opened fire 31 times on residential areas the day before, destroying dozens of houses, including in the villages of Hirske and Popasnyanska, and a bridge in Rubizhne. .

Russia’s advance into the Donbass was slow, but its forces gained ground and took villages.

In other developments, Ukrainian officials said their forces shot down another Russian vessel in the Black Sea, although there was no confirmation from Russia and no casualties were reported.

The logistics ship Vsevolod Bobrov was badly damaged but it is not believed to have sunk when it was hit while trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Snake Island, said Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to the President of Ukraine .

In April, the Ukrainian army sank the cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. In March, he destroyed the landing ship Saratov.

Ukraine said Russian forces fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops around Zaporizhzhia, which has been a haven for civilians fleeing Mariupol, and attacked in the Chernihiv and Sumy to the north.

The Ukrainian military also said Russian forces were transferring additional artillery units to border areas near Chernihiv, where night strikes killed at least three people. He said Russian troops fired rockets at a school and student dormitory in Novhorod-Siversky and other buildings, including private homes, were also damaged.

In his evening address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attacks.

“Of course, the Russian state is in such a state that any education only gets in the way,” he said. “But what can be achieved by destroying Ukrainian schools? All Russian commanders who give such orders are simply sick and incurable.

The southern port of Mariupol was largely reduced to smoldering rubble with little food, water or medicine, or what the mayor called a “medieval ghetto”. The Ukrainian fighters there continued to hold on to the Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion of resistance in the city.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said negotiations were underway with Russia to secure the release of 38 seriously injured Ukrainian defenders from the factory. She said Ukraine hoped to exchange them for 38 “important” Russian POWs.

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Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jari Tanner in Helsinki and other AP staff from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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