AP

Ukraine pushes to try alleged war crimes as fighting rages

Jul 25, 2022, 7:54 AM | Updated: 7:59 am

Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv,...

Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind a glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, July 25, 2022. Kyiv Appeal court has started to consider an appeal on a life sentence for Shishimarin after he was sentenced for the killing of a 62-year-old man who was shot in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the opening days of the war. (AP Photo/Danylo Antoniuk)

(AP Photo/Danylo Antoniuk)

KYIV (AP) — The appeal of Ukraine’s first war crimes conviction was adjourned on Monday, as prosecutors keep pushing to hold Russia legally accountable for atrocities even as fighting rages in the south and east of the country.

Thin and subdued, Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old captured Russian soldier who pleaded guilty to killing a civilian and was sentenced in May by a Ukrainian court to life in prison, sat in a glass box in the courtroom as he faced news cameras. The hearing was postponed until July 29 due to his lawyer’s ill health.

Around Ukraine’s capitol region, where Russian forces pulled out four months ago, much of the work of documenting crime scenes and interviewing witnesses has been done. Now a new, more difficult phase in the search for accountability is underway: Finding those responsible.

“While conducting searches in the previously occupied region, we regularly find documents, passports and lists with names of participants of the units, with their complete data, including sites of birth and dates of births,” Andrii Nebytov, head of the Kyiv regional police, told The Associated Press. “All of this information is being transferred to the relevant law enforcement. The investigators are working with the victims, trying to identify the people who committed crimes against them.”

Shishimarin’s case is unusual in that Ukrainian authorities quickly found evidence to link him with the shooting of a 62-year-old man in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28. That’s not the case for most war crimes cases now under investigation.

Ukrainian prosecutors have registered over 20,100 potential war crimes, and police in the Kyiv region have exhumed more than 1,300 bodies.

But as of July, prosecutors in Ukraine have only been able to identify 127 suspects, according to the prosecutor general’s office. Fifteen of them are currently in Ukraine as prisoners of war while the rest remain at large. Those suspects include three accused of sexual violence and 64 accused of willful killing or ill-treatment of civilians.

Shishimarin is one of 10 people to face war crimes trials so far in Ukraine, in cases involving indiscriminate shelling, wilful killing, sexual violence, robbery, ill-treatment of civilians and attacks on civilian objects. Six have been convicted, according to the prosecutor general’s office.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

This story is part of an ongoing investigation from The Associated Press and the PBS series Frontline that includes the War Crimes Watch Ukraine interactive experience and an upcoming documentary.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The speed of justice in Ukraine has been unusual. War crimes prosecutions are rarely conducted during an ongoing conflict.

Ukraine’s top prosecutors have long argued for speedy trials — in part to meet a seething public hunger for justice — even as they work to maintain judicial standards that will satisfy domestic watchdogs and allies in the U.S. and Europe.

The prosecutor general behind this effort, Iryna Venediktova, was dismissed last week along with the former chief of Ukraine’s SBU security service, Ivan Bakanov, for reportedly not doing enough to tackle “collaborators and traitors” in their departments. Her replacement is expected to be announced shortly.

Even as the hunt for war crimes perpetrators intensifies, the daunting work of documenting atrocities continues.

Victims of chaos and carnage in the early weeks of war in Ukraine were buried haphazardly. All those bodies had to be dug up for forensic examination. Kyiv regional police have exhumed 1,346 bodies, but more than 300 people are still missing, according to Nebytov.

“Concerning the exhumations, I am sure that we are far from finishing it,” he said in an interview Thursday. “This week we found a man who was executed with his hands tied behind his back and a hat over his head. The expert says that during the execution the man was on his knees.”

More than half of the victims police have found so far were shot dead; 38 of them were children. Kyiv police have found 13 mass graves in the region.

Nebytov said he has documented a litany of horrors: babies shot dead as their families tried to escape in civilian convoys, a man kidnapped as he gathered wood to make a fire and executed, civilians taken in for interrogation by Russian forces whose bodies were found with hands and eyes bound with tape, shot in the knees and shot in the head.

“With the intelligence at my disposal, I can say that there’s no specific military strategy in sight. It is not a military strategy but rather terror,” he said. “It is a concentration of evil, violence and cruelty.”

Ruslan Kravchenko, chief regional prosecutor in Bucha, which lies just north of Ukraine’s capitol, told the AP that he has sent over 2,000 cases to Ukraine’s security services for further investigation and that new cases continue to come in every day – now, mostly for property damage.

Bucha, once a desirable, leafy town outside Kyiv, has become a symbol of the carnage of the war started by Russia in February. Kravchenko said of the 327 murder victims in Bucha his office has documented, just three were soldiers and one was a policeman.

“I have never seen so many bodies,” said Kravchenko, who worked in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian government since 2014, before moving onto Bucha. “I can see only one pattern: Where Russians saw civilians, they shot them immediately without explanation.”

___

Associated Press reporter Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Frontline producer Tom Jennings in Kyiv contributed.

___

Follow all AP stories on the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Members of the Henderson Fire Department load Deb Billet, 66, into an ambulance before trans...

Associated Press

Things to know about heat deaths as a dangerously hot summer shapes up in the western US

A dangerously hot summer is shaping up in the U.S. West, with heat suspected in dozens of recent deaths.

3 days ago

FILE - Dr. Ruth Westheimer participates in the "Ask Dr. Ruth" panel during the Hulu presentation at...

Associated Press

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, has died

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, media star and best-selling author, has died.

3 days ago

Biden proposes rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat...

Associated Press

Biden proposes new rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat

President Joe Biden on Tuesday proposed a new rule to address excessive heat in the workplace, warning — as tens of millions of people in the U.S. are under heat advisories — that high temperatures are the country's leading weather-related killer.

14 days ago

FILE - Rori Chang, of Glendale, Ariz., walks with her dog Ava as they leave the Maricopa Country An...

Associated Press

Here are ways that can help ease dogs’ July Fourth dread

Those with furry, four-legged family members will be searching for solutions to the Fourth of July anxiety that fireworks bring.

15 days ago

Fossilized crocodilian excrement is displayed at the "Poozeum", Friday, June 7, 2024, in Williams, ...

Associated Press

Museum in northern Arizona tells stories of ancient animals through their fossilized poop

The Poozeum opened in May in Williams, a northern Arizona town known for its Wild West shows along Route 66.

15 days ago

walgreens-closures...

Associated Press

Walgreens to take a hard look at underperforming stores, could shutter hundreds more

Walgreens is finalizing a plan to fix its business that could result in the closure of hundreds of additional stores in the next three years.

18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Ukraine pushes to try alleged war crimes as fighting rages