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

‘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 simple endeavor, which is why some people have explained Viktor Ovsyannikov as “the devil’s advocate”.

But the 43-calendar year-previous Ukrainian is unrepentant. “First of all, I am defending a person, not a criminal offense,” Ovsyannikov said on Sunday on the eve of the verdict in the trial of the 21-12 months-old tank commander Vadim Shysimarin, who has currently pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian in late February. “I’m trying to verify that my defendant’s steps were misqualified. It is up to judges to make a decision. I just do my position.”

“My loved ones, friends and colleagues guidance me,” Ovsyannikov additional. “They know an individual has to do it. But there are other persons who ‘invited’ me to go to Moscow or Donbas [the area in eastern Ukraine claimed by Russia-backed separatists].”

Prosecutors were astonished on Friday when Ovsyannikov questioned judges in the courtroom in Kyiv to acquit Shysimarin regardless of his responsible plea, on the grounds that he experienced executed an order. The Ukrainian prosecutor Andriy Syniuk stated the instruction to open hearth could not be regarded a navy buy and for that reason did not shield Shysimarin from obligation.

Ukraine has made seeking justice for atrocities dedicated by Russian troops a precedence and countrywide prosecutors are jeopardizing their life to acquire proof of war crimes even in locations still threatened by enemy forces or laced with mines.

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

‘Devil’s advocate’? Russian soldier’s Ukrainian lawyer defends role on eve of verdict | Ukraine
Viktor Ovsyannikov answers inquiries from the media. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Prosecutors say a team of Russian troopers shot at a civilian auto soon after their convoy came beneath assault from Ukrainian forces, then stole the motor vehicle and drove it absent. They afterwards came throughout the unarmed victim, who was conversing on his phone a few dozen metres from his house. A person of the gentlemen in the vehicle advised Shysimarin “to destroy a civilian so he would not report them to Ukrainian defenders”, in accordance to prosecutors. He opened hearth out of the auto window and shot down Shelipov.

This is not Ovsyannikov’s to start with controversial demo. In 2014 he defended the Russia-backed previous president Viktor Yanukovych, who was eventually discovered guilty of high treason and sentenced in absentia to 13 years in jail more than makes an attempt to quash a professional-western rebellion.

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Ovsyannikov argues that at any time considering that he approved the activity of defending Shysimarin, people today have questioned him the exact same query: “How can you defend a war legal?”

“And I am so drained of outlining that, in Ukraine, only a court of legislation can recognise 1 as a criminal. And, as considerably as I know, there is no verdict for my defendant at the minute.”

The demo is unparalleled in Ukraine, in which authorities are shifting rapidly and attempting to have out justice though conflict is ongoing. Ukraine’s prosecutor normal, Iryna Venediktova, has explained she is making ready far more than 40 instances for war crimes trials. Monday’s verdict is getting witnessed as a general public check of the independence of Ukraine’s judicial system.

“Of training course, it is quite an important exam and there is even more powerful stress from modern society on the judges to discover him guilty,” reported Ovsyannikov.

“My 1st effect of Shysimarin was of an regular man or woman, just like you or me,” he said. “My 2nd impression, when I began to do the job with him, is that he began to have an understanding of what experienced completed. The only point he needs now is to go back household. I am beneath this effect that he perceives this as some form of a desire.”

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