September 27, 2022

‘Devil’s advocate’? Russian soldier’s Ukrainian lawyer defends role on eve of verdict | Ukraine

Defending a Russian soldier accused of a war criminal offense in Ukraine is no effortless activity, which is why some people today have explained Viktor Ovsyannikov as “the devil’s advocate”.

But the 43-calendar year-aged Ukrainian is unrepentant. “First of all, I am defending a particular person, not a criminal offense,” Ovsyannikov mentioned on Sunday on the eve of the verdict in the trial of the 21-yr-previous tank commander Vadim Shysimarin, who has already pleaded responsible to killing an unarmed civilian in late February. “I’m striving to prove that my defendant’s actions were misqualified. It is up to judges to come to a decision. I just do my occupation.”

“My household, pals and colleagues aid me,” Ovsyannikov included. “They know somebody has to do it. But there are other people today who ‘invited’ me to go to Moscow or Donbas [the area in eastern Ukraine claimed by Russia-backed separatists].”

Prosecutors were being astonished on Friday when Ovsyannikov requested judges in the courtroom in Kyiv to acquit Shysimarin in spite of his responsible plea, on the grounds that he experienced executed an purchase. The Ukrainian prosecutor Andriy Syniuk mentioned the instruction to open hearth could not be thought of a armed service get and for that reason did not guard Shysimarin from accountability.

Ukraine has designed searching for justice for atrocities committed by Russian troops a priority and nationwide prosecutors are jeopardizing their life to gather evidence of war crimes even in locations nonetheless threatened by enemy forces or laced with mines.

Shysimarin arrives from Ust Illyinsk, in the south-east Irkutsk area of Russia, and was a commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division on 28 February, the working day that 62-yr-outdated Oleksandr Shelipov died in Chupakhivka village.

Viktor Ovsyannikov responses queries from the media. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Prosecutors say a group of Russian troopers shot at a civilian car immediately after their convoy came less than attack from Ukrainian forces, then stole the car and drove it absent. They afterwards came across the unarmed victim, who was chatting on his phone a number of dozen metres from his residence. One of the adult men in the car informed Shysimarin “to eliminate a civilian so he would not report them to Ukrainian defenders”, according to prosecutors. He opened hearth out of the vehicle window and shot down Shelipov.

This is not Ovsyannikov’s first controversial demo. In 2014 he defended the Russia-backed previous president Viktor Yanukovych, who was eventually found responsible of higher treason and sentenced in absentia to 13 decades in jail in excess of attempts to quash a pro-western rebellion.

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Ovsyannikov argues that ever due to the fact he accepted the task of defending Shysimarin, folks have asked him the exact same problem: “How can you protect a war prison?”

“And I am so drained of outlining that, in Ukraine, only a courtroom of regulation can recognise one particular as a legal. And, as considerably as I know, there is no verdict for my defendant at the second.”

The trial is unparalleled in Ukraine, wherever authorities are transferring fast and making an attempt to have out justice even though conflict is ongoing. Ukraine’s prosecutor normal, Iryna Venediktova, has claimed she is making ready extra than 40 cases for war crimes trials. Monday’s verdict is staying witnessed as a general public take a look at of the independence of Ukraine’s judicial technique.

“Of class, it is quite an critical examination and there is even much better force from modern society on the judges to uncover him guilty,” claimed Ovsyannikov.

“My to start with effect of Shysimarin was of an normal individual, just like you or me,” he said. “My second perception, when I began to do the job with him, is that he commenced to fully grasp what had completed. The only detail he desires now is to go back again home. I am less than this impression that he perceives this as some type of a aspiration.”

“Sometimes,” he extra, “I truly feel pity for him.”