A Ukrainian court is expected on Friday to begin hearing the first war crimes case arising from Russia’s February 24 invasion after charging a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian.
The case is of huge symbolic importance for Ukraine. The Kyiv government has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.
Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes and accused Kyiv of staging them to smear its forces.
The Kyiv district court’s website identified the soldier on trial as Vadim Shishimarin and said he was accused of “violations of the laws and norms of war.”
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said the defendant was a 21-year-old soldier in the Kantemirovskaya tank division from the Moscow region.
He faces up to life imprisonment over the killing in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka, east of the capital Kyiv, on February 28.
The soldier could not be reached for comment. It was unclear whether he would appear in court or who would defend him.
The court hearing was due to begin at 1000 GMT.
In a statement, the prosecutor general’s office said the soldier stole a privately-owned car to escape with four other Russian servicemen after their column was targeted by Ukrainian forces.
The statement said the Russian soldiers drove into the village of Chupakhivka where they saw an unarmed resident riding a bicycle and talking on his phone.
It said the suspect was ordered to kill the civilian to prevent him reporting on the Russians’ presence and fired several shots through the open window of the car with an assault rifle at the civilian’s head, and he died on the spot.
It did not say how the soldier was captured or elaborate on evidence that led to the war crimes charges.
The SBU Security Service of Ukraine conducted the investigation into the case, it said.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Thursday there were many examples of possible war crimes since the Russian invasion and that 1,000 bodies had been recovered so far in the Kyiv region.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on April 25 it would take part in a joint team with Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian prosecutors investigating war crimes allegations against Russian forces.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm the country and protect it from fascists, denying its forces committed abuses. Kyiv and its Western backers say the fascism claim is a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.