Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — The trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian began Friday in the first war crimes trial since Moscow invaded its neighbor.
Dozens of journalists huddled inside a small courtroom in the Ukrainian capital where suspects appeared in small glass cages as they prepared to begin a trial that has drawn international attention amid allegations of repeated atrocities by Russian troops.
Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. He could be sentenced to life in prison.
The killings occurred early in the war, when Russian tanks advancing towards Kyiv were accidentally routed and tank crews retreated.
Shishmarin, a member of the tank unit captured by the Ukrainian army, admitted that he shot and killed the civilian in a video released by the Ukrainian Security Service.
“I was ordered to shoot,” Shyshimarin said of the February 28 killings. “I shot him (a bullet). He fell. We moved on.”
Shyshimarin’s video statement was “one of the first confessions from an enemy intruder,” according to Ukraine’s security services.
The trial comes at a time when Russia’s move to occupy eastern Ukraine is slow — but its incursion has reverberated widely beyond the battlefield.
Two and a half months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s neighbors felt a wave of fear, with Finland’s president and prime minister announcing Thursday that the Nordic country should immediately apply to join NATO, a military defense pact created in part to counter the Soviet Union. alliance.
“You (Russia) did it. Look in the mirror,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
The Finnish parliament still needs to be involved, but the announcement means it will almost certainly apply and be admitted. The process can take months to complete. Likewise, Sweden is considering placing itself under NATO protection.
This would represent a major change in the European security landscape: Sweden has avoided alliances with military alliances for more than 200 years, while Finland has adopted a neutral stance after being defeated by the Soviet Union in World War II.
The Kremlin has warned that it could take retaliatory “military-technical” measures.
After the invasion, public opinion in both countries turned sharply in favor of joining NATO, raising fears that they could be next in countries flanked by Russia.
Such an expansion of the alliance would leave Russia surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, which would be a harrowing setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had hoped to divide and overthrow NATO in Europe, only to see the opposite happen.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO would welcome Finland and Sweden with open arms.
NATO’s supply of weapons and other military support to Ukraine is crucial to Kyiv’s astonishing ability to thwart an invasion, and the Kremlin has again warned that aid could lead to a direct conflict between NATO and Russia.
“There is always the risk of such a conflict turning into a full-scale nuclear war, a situation that would be catastrophic for everyone,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council.
On the ground, the British Ministry of Defence said on Friday that Russia had not made any significant progress despite concentrating its forces in the Donbass after withdrawing from other regions.
Russia has lost “critical” personnel of at least one battalion’s tactical group – about 1,000 soldiers – as well as equipment for the rapid deployment of makeshift pontoons when trying to cross the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severo Donetsk, British military officials said .
“The river crossing in a contested environment is a high-risk operation, which shows that Russian commanders are under pressure to make progress in operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
As fighting and Russian strikes continue, teachers are trying to regain some sense of normalcy after the war closed schools in Ukraine and devastated the lives of millions of children. In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, a subway station is being used as a bomb shelter and has become home to many families.
“It helps to support them spiritually. Because now there is a war, many people have lost their homes… Some people whose parents are fighting now,” said teacher Valery Lecco. Thanks in part to the classes, he said, “they felt like someone loved them.”
Elementary students and Leiko sat around a table in the subway station for history and art lessons, and now the children’s paintings hang on the walls.
An older student, Anna Fedoryaka, is monitoring an online lecture on Ukrainian literature by Kharkiv professor Mykhailo Spodarets in his basement.
Internet connectivity was an issue, Fedoryaka said. Also, “it’s hard to concentrate when you have to do your homework with the window exploding.”
At least two civilians were killed Thursday in the suburbs of Kharkiv, authorities said. The mayor of the suburban town of Derhachi, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, wrote in a Telegram post that the attack also damaged a building housing humanitarian aid units, municipal offices and hospital facilities.
None of the sites “has anything to do with military infrastructure,” Zadolenko said.
Russian troops opened fire on residential areas 31 times the previous day, destroying dozens of houses, especially in the villages of Hirske and Popasnianska, as well as a bridge in Rubizhne, the military chief of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region said on Friday.
Russia’s progress in the Donbass has been slow, but its forces have made some progress and captured some villages.
In other developments, Ukrainian officials said their forces destroyed another Russian ship in the Black Sea, but there was no confirmation from Russia and no reports of casualties.
The Vsevolod Bobrov logistics ship was hit while trying to deliver air defense systems to Snake Island and was badly damaged, but is not thought to have sunk, said Oleksi Arestovich, an adviser to the Ukrainian president.
In April, the Ukrainian military sank the flagship Moscow cruiser of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. In March, it destroyed the landing ship Saratov.
Ukraine said Russian troops fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops near Zaporozhye, a haven for civilians fleeing Mariupol, and in Chernihiv and Sumy in the north. area was attacked.
The Ukrainian military also said Russian troops were moving more artillery units to the border area near Chernihiv, where an overnight airstrike killed at least three people. Russian troops fired rockets at a school and student dormitory in Novkhorod-Sivorski, and several other buildings, including private residences, were also damaged, reports said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack in an evening address to the nation.
“Of course the Russian state is in such a state that any education will only get in the way,” he said. “But what can be achieved by destroying Ukrainian schools? All the Russian commanders who gave such orders are sick and incurable.”
The southern port of Mariupol has largely been reduced to smoking rubble with little food, water or medicine, what the mayor calls a “medieval ghetto”. Ukrainian fighters there continued to hold their ground at the Azovstal Steel Works, the city’s last stronghold of resistance.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said talks were underway with Russia to secure the release of 38 seriously wounded Ukrainian defenders from the nuclear power plant. She said Ukraine wanted them in exchange for 38 “important” Russian prisoners of war.
Yesica Fisch in Bachmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkov, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, and other Associated Press staff around the world contributed to this report.
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