The baby-faced Russian tank commander who murdered an innocent grandfather in Ukraine smirked in the dock yesterday as it emerged he could be sent home in a prisoner swap.
Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, hung his head and begged for ‘forgiveness’ when he was cross-examined by the widow of Oleksandr Shelypov, 62, whom he shot in the head with an AK-47 assault rifle on the fifth day of Russia‘s invasion.
But the dead-eyed killer grinned after prosecutors revealed that two of his comrades – who had been due to give evidence against him – had been sent back to Russia in a prisoner swap.
Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, a former tank sergeant in the Russian army, is facing life in jail after admitting war crimes charges on Wednesday
The dead-eyed killer grinned after prosecutors revealed that two of his comrades – who had been due to give evidence against him – had been sent back to Russia in a prisoner swap
Oleksandr Shelypov once served the Russian elite as part of the Soviet KGB, but was ultimately shot dead by Russian troops
Shishimarin (right) says he was ordered to shoot the man while he and his comrades were driving through Sumy province so he wouldn’t give away their position
The case was adjourned for sentencing today, with Shishimarin facing life behind bars.
News of a possible deal with Moscow emerged when Mr Shelypov’s widow Kateryna told judges she would approve of swapping Shishimarin for Ukrainians captured in the Azovstal factory in Mariupol.
The 61-year-old said: ‘I want him to get life, but if he is exchanged for defenders of the Azovstal, our boys from Mariupol, I will not mind. I will not be against it.’
Russian forces are holding more than 1,700 Ukrainian fighters who had been living in tunnels at the plant this week following a two-month siege that has made them national heroes. Kyiv said it was negotiating an exchange of the fighters for Russian prisoners.
But Russia has not confirmed that a swap will take place, amid suggestions that Putin may put the Ukrainians on trial.
In a tense exchange at Kyiv’s Appeal Court, Mrs Shelypova confronted her husband’s killer, demanding: ‘Tell me what did you feel when you killed my husband? Do you repent of this crime?’
Shishimarin is pictured being led away from court, where he will face life in jail when he next appears at his sentencing hearing
Kateryna Shelypova, whose husband Oleksandr was shot dead by Shishimarin, confronted him in court today – demanding to know why he had come to Ukraine
He replied: ‘I admit my guilt. I understand you can’t forgive me. I ask for your forgiveness.’
Mrs Shelpova said: ‘Tell me please, why did you come here? To protect us? From whom? From my husband who you killed?’
Shishimarin responded: ‘We were just following our orders.’ Prosecutors showed the judges three AK-47s – including the murder weapon – that they said were seized from Shishimarin and his comrades after their arrest.
The court heard that Mr Shelypov – a former KGB bodyguard – was pushing his bicycle home and speaking on his phone when he was shot yards from his front door on February 28 in the north-eastern village of Chupakhivk.
Giving evidence in court for the first time, Shishimarin said he was in the rear of a stolen Volkswagen Passat as he and other Russian troops fled a Ukrainian ambush.
Shelypova (pictured) told the court that losing her husband ‘is everything for me’ as Shishimarin begged her to forgive him
Kateryna Shelypova (bottom right), today confronted Russian solider Vadim Shishimarin (standing with his head bowed, top left) in a Kyiv court after he admitted killing her husband
They had come under attack while trying to evacuate troops from his unit who had been injured by another Russian tank in a so-called friendly fire incident.
He said an officer ‘screamed’ at him to shoot Mr Shelypov, adding: ‘I did not want to. He started to say in a forceful tone that I should shoot.
‘He was saying I was going to put us all in danger if I don’t. I shot him at short range with an automatic burst. It killed him. I did not want to kill him. I shot him so they would leave me alone.’
As they approached the next village they were attacked by a band of villagers armed with hunting rifles. Shishimarin said the officer who had ordered him to murder Mr Shelypov was killed.
The survivors hid overnight before handing themselves in.
His account was backed by Russian PoW Ivan Maltisov, 20, who said: ‘Vadim did not want to shoot the civilian, but the officer was shouting at him, saying we would all die because of his inaction, so he fired three or four rounds.’