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A Ukrainian court sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11 and a half years in jail for shelling a town in eastern Ukraine – the second war crimes verdict since the conflict began.

Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov, who listened to the verdict standing in a reinforced glass box at the Kotelevska district court in the central region of Poltava, both pleaded guilty last week to violating norms and customs of warfare.

Two Russian Soldiers in Court in Ukraine

“The guilt of Bobikin and Ivanov has been proven in full,” Judge Evhen Bolybok said, standing in front of a Ukrainian flag.

Prosecutors had asked for 12 years, but defense lawyers said the sentence should be eight years, taking into account that the soldiers had pleaded guilty and expressed remorse and had been following orders while acting under duress.

Ukrainian news agency Interfax reported that both defendants had pleaded guilty to firing Grad missiles from Russia’s Belgorod region on two villages in the north-eastern Kharkiv region – Kozacha Lopan and Veterynarne – in the early days of the conflict.

Prosecutors said the shelling had destroyed critical infrastructure and houses in several settlements across the border and an educational facility in the town of Derhachi, but caused no casualties.

Bobikin and Ivanov, described as an artillery driver and a gunner, were captured after crossing the border and continuing the shelling.

After the verdict, the two were asked if they felt the sentence was fair and both said yes. Guards armed with Kalashnikov rifles handcuffed the two and led them out of the courtroom.

Ukraine claims 10,000 possible war crimes

On May 23, a Ukrainian court sentenced 21-year-old Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian. Kyiv has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes while it carries out what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

All three verdicts against Russian servicemen in the last week, which followed short trials, are expected to be the first in a wave of trials. Rights organizations have voiced hope that Ukrainian trials of Russian soldiers will be impartial and transparent.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova announced this week the country’s first rape case, allegedly committed by a Russian soldier – currently at large.

After Shishimarin’s conviction, the Kremlin said it had not received any information about his case during his trial. “The fate of every Russian citizen is of paramount importance to us,” it said last week.

Ukrainian lawyers representing Russian servicemen say they have not been in contact with legal or military officials in Moscow.

AFP ,Reuters

By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

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