The first Russian soldier to stand trial for war crimes since Ukraine’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine apologized in court on Thursday to the widow of the 62-year-old man he shot and killed.

“I understand you cannot forgive me, but I do apologize,” said the soldier, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, told Katerina Shelipova, the widow of Oleksandr Shelipov, whom he murdered on Feb. 28, four days after the invasion began, in a village in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine. He faces a prison term of at least 10 years to life.

Sergeant Shishimarin pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder of Mr. Shelipov, which occurred when he and five fellow soldiers retreated to an impounded car after being fired upon. The sergeant said he was ordered to shoot at Mr. Shelipov by a higher-ranking soldier who was not his commander because he and his fellow soldiers believed the man was informing the Ukrainian military of their location.

Judge Sergey Agafonov asked Sergeant Shishimarin why he was following an order to shoot from someone who was not his immediate superior.

“Are you obliged to carry out an apparently punishable order?” Judge Sergey Agafonov asked him.

“No,” he replied.

The trial has received tremendous local and international attention. Ukrainian authorities adjourned Wednesday’s hearing shortly after Sergeant Shishimarin pleaded guilty because there was not enough space to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend the proceedings. The judges met in a larger courtroom at the Kiev Court of Appeal.

Evidence must continue to be heard despite Sergeant Shishimarin’s admission of guilt to ensure the defendant pleaded not guilty to defend someone else, to record the facts and because of the severity of the possible sentence, Ukrainian legal experts say.

Sergeant Shishimarin, 21, from the town of Ust-Ilimsk, in Siberia’s Irkutsk region, had finished his compulsory military service in May 2020, but signed a contract to continue serving in the military, according to an interview his mother gave to the independent Russian outlet Meduza. She was quoted only by her first name, Lyubov.

Ms. Shelipova testified on Thursday that her husband had gone to survey the damage to his neighborhood. When she went to her garden to get some water from the well, she heard shooting.

“A car passed by: this man was behind the driver,” she said, pointing to Sergeant Shishimarin, “I saw him, and he probably saw me too.”

When she found her husband, he was already dead.

“As I got closer, I saw his brain,” she said. “The skull was pierced and the brain was exposed. There was a lot of blood.”

Ukraine hopes to exchange soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol for Russian prisoners of war, although neither Moscow nor Kiev have released details of a possible prisoner swap. A transfer of prisoners would hamper Ukraine’s ability to hold Russian soldiers legally responsible for alleged war crimes.

Mrs. Shelipova, who was asked by the prosecutor what she thought would be an appropriate sentence for Sergeant Shishimarin, began to cry.

“He was everything to me,” she said of her husband. “He was my defender. I lived behind him as if behind a stone wall.”

She told the court she believed a life sentence would be an appropriate sentence for the crime, “but if he is exchanged for our defenders of Azovstal, I wouldn’t mind,” she said.

Maria Varenikova and Natalia Novosolova contributed reporting.

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