By Vitalii Hnidyi
CHUPAKHIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – The widow of an unarmed man killed in Ukraine by a Russian soldier jailed for life last week in the first war crimes trial of Russia’s invasion has recounted finding her husband’s body, a bullet hole in his head.
Kateryna Shelipova said she saw Vadim Shishimarin carrying a rifle shortly before she found her husband, 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov, lying in a road near their house in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on Feb. 28.
She had come out after hearing distant shots being fired.
“When I left the yard, I didn’t see him immediately. But when I went further out, I looked here and I saw him lying here,” she said, pointing to a spot between two plum trees just off the road.
“(He was shot) straight in the head.” His bicycle lay over his legs, she added.
Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, pleaded guilty to killing Shelipov and asked his widow for forgiveness.
Shishimarin’s trial is the first in a likely long line of legal cases: Ukraine 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.
Shelipova said her husband had been unarmed and was dressed in civilian clothes. Married for 36 years, they had a 27-year-old son and two grandchildren, she said, showing Reuters a photo of their wedding day.
Ukrainian state prosecutors said Shishimarin fired several shots with an assault rifle at Shelipov’s head from a car after being ordered to do so to prevent him reporting on Shishimarin and four other Russian servicemen’s location.
“I still can’t believe that he’s not among us. I still think that he’s here, that he’ll come here and say ‘hello’,” said Mykola Radkov, a friend of Shelipov.
(Writing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)