Who are the first Russian soldiers convicted of war crimes in Ukraine?
Two war crimes sentences have been handed out by Ukrainian courts since Russia invaded the country. Three young Russian soldiers have been found guilty: Alexander Bobykin (26), Alexander Ivanov (21) and Vadim Shishimarin (21) (pictured).
Eleven years and five months is the prison sentence imposed by the court of the Ukrainian city of Poltava (pictured) on Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov.
Both men were members of a Russian artillery unit and the most recent soldiers to be found guilty of "violation of the laws and customs of war". The trial against them, which began in mid-May, ended on May 31.
The charge accepted by the Ukrainian court was that of having hit two villages in the north-eastern region of Kharkiv with 38 missiles. Civilian buildings were deliberately bombed during the first days of the invasion. The Interfax agency reported that the two defendants "fully admitted their guilt and declared themselves repentant."
As Aljazeera reports, the bombing of which Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov were found guilty of destroyed a school in the city of Derhachi, in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, but caused no casualties. Nonetheless, the guilt of the two troops "was fully proven", as Judge Evhen Bolybok said.
A civilian victim, on the other hand, is the reason behind the life sentence handed down by the Ukrainian justice against another Russian soldier, Vadim Shishimarin. The 21-year-old from Ust-Ilimsk is accused of killing an unarmed civilian point blank.
The civilian killed was named Oleksandr Shelipov, he was 62 years old and, while on a bicycle, he was shot in the head by Shishimarin in the village of Chupakhivka, in Sumy oblast, during the retreat of Russian troops on 28 February.
Shishimarin was reportedly ordered to kill the civilian by a fellow soldier and the BBC reports that the weapon used for the purpose was a Kalashnikov assault rifle. The young man pleaded guilty to all charges.
The widow of the man killed, Kateryna Shalipova (pictured), spoke to the BBC, saying: "I am very sorry for him" and adds "But for such a crime, I cannot forgive him."
In an interview with the independent Russian news agency Meduza, Lyubov, Shishimarin's mother, described her son as an attentive and kind young man. Her son enlisted in the army in May 2021, a few months after the murder of his stepfather, when his family's financial situation, consisting of his mother and four siblings, began to suffer from the lack of income.
Also according to the mother's account, her son called in late February to explain: "Mom, I won't have a phone for a week, I have to give it up. If someone tells you I went to Ukraine, don't believe them."
The mother is convinced: her son could never have killed a man. "Maybe he was forced to," she declared. The last news she had had of her son had been that of his capture.
Whether he was obeying an order or not, the reality remains only one: Shishimarin shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a civilian, in the head.
The young soldier violated the Geneva Convention. He obeyed a soldier who was not his commanding officer and whom he did not know. Judge Ahafonov was very clear in his sentence: Shishimarin "was not obliged to carry out that order".
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova tweeted: "However, by this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility."
In the joint press conference held in The Hague between the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan and the Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova, the latter stated that "about 200-300 war crimes are committed every day."
In addition, Vanity Fair reported that there have been around 12,909 total alleged war crimes committed by Russian soldiers since the beginning of the hostilities.
What is clear enough is that these two sentences could be just the first of a long series. Many analysts are convinced that, through these processes, Ukraine wants to secure a bargaining chip for the prisoners of the Azov Battalion and other Mariupol soldiers captured by the Russians.
In any case, the sentences are based on sound legal principles and, although these young soldiers may appear to be mere pawns in a much larger strategy, the fact remains that they themselves have admitted to having committed a crime and that obeying a order does not exempt them from responsibility.
After the statements by Irina Venediktova on the number of crimes committed in Ukraine, the continuous denunciations of the Ukrainian government, and the photos of the Bucha massacre published by the New Y0rk times, it seems that Ukraine is perhaps trying to give a severe and strong response to the people of Ukraine.
The people of Ukraine have been terrified and devastated by Russia's war on the country and a little justice, no matter how small, will surely do a lot for morale...because nobody knows how much longer Ukraine will need to continue to resist the attack of Russia.