The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who have ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-controlled territory.
Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials said on Tuesday they could be tried and even executed. MPs in Russia’s State Duma said they would propose new laws that could derail prisoner exchanges of fighters who Moscow claims are “terrorists”.
Russian investigators have said they plan to interrogate the soldiers and could charge them with “crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population in south-east Ukraine”.
On Tuesday evening, seven buses carrying Ukrainian soldiers left the Azovstal plant in the port city and arrived at a former prison colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka in Donetsk, Reuters reported.
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Here’s more on the war crimes trial due to kick off today.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, will appear at Kyiv’s Solomyansky district court from 2:00 pm (1100 GMT), charged with war crimes and premeditated murder, over the death of a 62-year-old man in northeastern Ukraine on February 28.
The soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia faces a possible life sentence.
“He understands what he is being accused of,” his lawyer Viktor Ovsiannikov told AFP, without revealing the case for the defence.
Ukrainian authorities say he is cooperating with investigators and admitting the facts of the incident which came just four days after the Russian invasion began.
Prosecutors said Shishimarin was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack.
He and four other soldiers stole a car, and as they were travelling near the village of Shupakhivka in the Sumy region, they encountered a 62-year-old man on a bicycle.
“One of the soldiers ordered the accused to kill the civilian so that he would not denounce them,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Shishimarin then fired a Kalashnikov assault rifle from the window of the vehicle and “the man died instantly, a few dozen metres from his home”, they added in a statement.
In early May, Ukrainian authorities announced his arrest without giving details, while publishing a video in which Shishimarin said he had come to fight in Ukraine to “support his mother financially”.
He explained his actions saying: “I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell and we continued our journey.”
His lawyer said the case was proving challenging. “This is the first such case in Ukraine with such an indictment. There is no relevant legal practice or verdicts on such cases. We will sort it out,” he said.
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor Iryna Venediktova underlined the importance of the case for her country in a series of tweets.
“We have over 11,000 ongoing cases of war crimes and already 40 suspects,” she said.
“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.”
Two Russian servicemen are due to go on trial from Thursday for firing rockets at civilian infrastructure in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
The big news today is that the first war crimes trial since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine will begin in Kyiv. It is against a Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed civilian, a 62-year-old man in northeastern Ukraine, in the days after the invasion began.
The trial, expected to be followed by several others, will test the Ukrainian justice system at a time when international institutions are also conducting their own investigations into abuses committed by Russian forces.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, will appear at Kyiv’s Solomyansky district court charged with war crimes and premeditated murder, the soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia faces a possible life sentence.
Here is what else you need to know:
- The international criminal court on Tuesday sent a 42-member team to Ukraine to probe alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion in what it called the largest such deployment in its history.
- The US will create a new unit to research, document and publicise alleged war crimes by Russia in Ukraine. The Conflict Observatory will “capture, analyse, and make widely available evidence of Russia-perpetrated war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” the US state department said.
- Peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have stagnated, officials said on Tuesday, with both sides trading blame and Moscow indicating a return to talks may be difficult. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he believed no peace deal can be made if negotiators try to “transfer the dialogue” to focus on what the west had to say instead of the immediate situation in Ukraine. That ruled out chances for progress in talks, he added. “We always say that we are ready for negotiations … but we were given no other choice,” Lavrov said.
- The fate of more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers who have ended weeks of resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol remains unclear, after the fighters surrendered and were transferred to Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said they would be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials said they could be tried or even executed.
- Eight people have died and 12 were wounded after Russia launched a missile strike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, according to Ukraine’s state emergency service. The regional governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said Russia launched four missiles at around 5am local time on Tuesday. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he said.
- A village in Russia’s western province of Kursk bordering Ukraine came under Ukrainian fire, the regional governor said, but there were no injuries.
We’ll be blogging throughout the day, so keep following as we bring you the news as it breaks.