Ukraine opens first war crimes trial of captured Russian

KYIV, Ukraine – Journalists packed a small courtroom in Kiev for the trial of a captured Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian in the early days of the war – the first of dozens of war crimes cases that Ukraine’s top prosecutor said her office is chasing.

Like the 21-year-old Russian sergeant’s trial. Vadim Shyshimarin started in the capital, Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a floating bridge they had been using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to save a war. wrong.

Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and videos of what it said was a damaged Russian floating bridge over the Siversky Donets River in Bilohorivka and at least 73 destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” from at least one battalion tactical group in the attack. A Russian battalion tactical group consists of about 1,000 soldiers.

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

In other developments, a move by Finland and potentially Sweden to join NATO was called into question when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country “does not have a favorable opinion” on the idea. He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others that Turkey considers terrorists.

Erdogan did not openly say that he would prevent the two nations from joining NATO. But the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, so each of its 30 member countries has a veto over who can participate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin waged the war with the aim of preventing NATO’s eastward advance. The invasion of Ukraine has left other countries along Russia’s flank worried that they might be next.

Meanwhile, Russia’s offensive in Donbas, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, appeared to be turning into a war of attrition.

The Ukrainians are doing everything they can to drive the Russians out, but “nobody today can predict how long this war will last,” their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in his nightly video address to the nation.

“This will depend, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already doing their best,” he said. “That will depend on our partners, on European countries, on the whole free world.”

With Ukraine calling for more weapons to fend off better-equipped Russians, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief announced plans to give Kiev another 500 million euros ($520 million) to buy heavy weapons.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed the heavy weapons that are making their way to the front lines, but also said there was no quick end to the war in sight.

“We are entering a new long-term phase of the war,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Extremely difficult weeks await us. How many will it be? No one can say for sure.”

The battle for the Donbas became a back-and-forth village-by-village battle, with no major advances on either side and little ground gained. Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were making progress, retaking six Ukrainian towns or villages in the last day.

Fighting is fierce on the Siversky Donets River near the city of Severodonetsk, where Ukraine has launched counterattacks but has failed to stop Russia’s advance, said Oleh Zhdanov, an independent Ukrainian military analyst.

“The fate of a large part of the Ukrainian army is being decided – there are around 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.

The Ukrainian military chief of the Luhansk region of Donbass said on Friday that troops had almost complete control of Rubizhne, a city with a pre-war population of about 55,000.

In the ruined southern port of Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters hiding in a steel mill faced continued Russian attacks on the last stronghold of resistance in the city. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said his troops would hold out “as long as they can”, despite shortages of ammunition, food, water and medicine.

And in Kiev, Ukrainian soldiers dressed in white protective suits loaded the bodies of Russian soldiers into refrigerated train cars. The bodies were wrapped in white sacks and stacked in several layers.

Colonel Volodymyr Lyamzin, who oversaw the operation, said several hundred bodies were being stored on trains in the capital and on several other storage trains elsewhere. He said Ukraine is ready to hand over the bodies to Russia, but so far there has been no agreement to do so.

In the first war crimes case brought to trial, Shyshimarin faces life in prison if convicted of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through a car window in a village in northeastern Sumy on Feb. invasion days.

The defendant, dressed in a blue and gray sweatshirt and gray sweatpants, sat in a small glass cage during the process, which lasted about 15 minutes and will resume on Wednesday. The trial will be closely monitored by international observers to ensure its impartiality.

Shyshimarin received several questions, including whether he understood his rights and whether he wanted a jury trial. He declined the latter.

His lawyer assigned to Ukraine, Victor Ovsyanikov, acknowledged that the case against Shyshimarin is strong and did not say what his defense would be.

Shyshimarin, a member of a tank unit that was captured by Ukrainian forces, admitted to shooting the civilian in a video posted by Ukraine’s Security Service, saying he was ordered to do so.

Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova said she is preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for crimes such as bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting. She said two accused of bombing civilian infrastructure and residential buildings are in Ukrainian hands. It was unclear how many of the suspects would be tried in absentia.

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Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Elena Becatoros in Odesa and other AP staff around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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