Judge Sergiy Agafonov said Vadim Shishimarin, carrying out a "criminal order" by a soldier of higher rank, had fired several shots at the victim's head from an automatic weapon in northeast Ukraine.

The 21-year-old has told the court he was pressured into an act for which he was
The 21-year-old has told the court he was pressured into an act for which he was "truly sorry" and asked the victim's widow, Kateryna Shelipova, to forgive him. (AFP)

A court in Kiev has sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison for killing a Ukrainian civilian, sealing the first guilty conviction for what Ukrainian authorities describe as “war crimes” by Moscow's forces.

"The court has found that (Vadim) Shishimarin is guilty and sentences him to life imprisonment," judge Sergiy Agafonov said on Monday.

Shishimarin, a Russian sergeant from Siberia, has admitted in court to killing 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov in north-east Ukraine's Chupakhivka village on February 28, four days after Russia attacked its neighbour.

He was also found guilty of premeditated murder. "The murder was committed with direct intent," judge Agafonov said. "Shishimarin violated the laws and customs of war."

Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings silently from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom and showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.

For much of the time, he stood with head bowed as he listened to a translator who stood with two guards outside the reinforced glass box.

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Verdict to be challenged

His lawyer said Shishimarin intended to appeal the verdict. "This is the most severe sentence and any level-headed person would challenge it," the lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, said.

"I will ask for the cancellation of the court's verdict," Ovsyannikov added. He said that "you can feel societal pressure" on the decision of the court.

The shaven-headed soldier has testified that he shot the man after being ordered to do so. Shishimarin has apologised and asked Shelipov's widow for forgiveness.

"I was nervous about what was going on. I didn't want to kill," he said from the glass defence box, as the trial concluded Friday.

The trial in Kiev comes as international institutions conduct their own investigations into alleged abuses that have turned cities like Bucha and Mariupol into watchwords for destruction.

The trial has huge symbolic significance for Ukraine, which has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during Moscow's offensive and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible "war crimes".

Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in what Ukraine and Western leaders describe as "war crimes".

The Kremlin said before the sentencing that while it was "concerned" over Shishimarin's fate, it was unable provide on-the-ground assistance because there is no Russian diplomatic presence in Ukraine.

"That doesn't mean we won't try through other channels. The fate of every Russian citizen is of paramount importance to us," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies