A court in Kyiv will hear the first war crime trial since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, while the Kremlin bristled at Finland seeking to join Nato and Sweden moving to follow suit.
In a watershed moment, a Russian soldier will be accused of murdering a 62-year-old civilian when he appears in the dock on Friday, with the case coming as the number of crimes registered by Ukraine’s general prosecutor surpassed 11,000 and Unicef reported that at least 100 children had been killed in the war in April alone.
The defendant who will appear at Kyiv’s district court is Vadim Shysimarin, a 21-year-old commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, who is currently in Ukrainian custody.
It is alleged Shysimarin, a sergeant, had been fighting in the Sumy region in north-east Ukraine when he killed a civilian on 28 February in the village of Chupakhivka.
He is accused of shooting at a civilian car after his convoy of military vehicles had come under attack from Ukrainian forces. He then drove the car away with four other soldiers as he sought to flee Ukrainian fighters.
Shysimarin shot dead the unarmed man, who was on a bicycle and talking on his phone, after being ordered “to kill a civilian so he would not report them to Ukrainian defenders”, according to prosecutors.
The crime is said to have happened “dozens of metres” from the victim’s house and was committed using an AK-74 rifle.
The case was this week filed at a criminal court. “He is here [in Ukraine], we have him,” said Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, from her heavily fortified headquarters in Kyiv on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said: “Prosecutors and investigators of the SBU [Ukrainian secret services] have collected enough evidence of his involvement in violation of the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder. For these actions, he faces 10 to 15 years in prison or life in prison.”
Two other cases are likely to be heard in court within days including an in absentia trial of Mikhail Romanov, a Russian soldier accused of rape and murder. He is accused of breaking into a house in March in a village in the Brovarsky region near Kyiv, murdering a man and then repeatedly raping his wife while “threatening her and her underage child with violence and weapons”.
Moscow called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the Finns would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and swift” accession process. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said: “We would support a Nato application by Finland and-or Sweden should they apply.”
Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss has urged a meeting of G7 foreign ministers to equip Ukraine to Nato standards and maintain sanctions against Russia until it has fully withdrawn.
The BBC reported that Truss told the meeting in Germany: “[Vladimir] Putin is humiliating himself on the world stage. We must ensure he faces a defeat in Ukraine that denies him any benefit and ultimately constrains further aggression.
“The best long-term security for Ukraine will come from it being able to defend itself. That means providing Ukraine with a clear pathway to Nato-standard equipment.”
Elsewhere, Ukraine has claimed that it has damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near Snake Island in the Black Sea, as the Kremlin bristled at Finland seeking to join Nato and Sweden moving to follow suit.
“Thanks to the actions of our naval seamen, the support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov caught fire – it is one of the newest in the Russian fleet,” said Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration.
Satellite imagery provided by Maxar, a private US-based company, showed the aftermath of what it said were probable missile attacks on a Russian Serna-class landing craft near the island, close to Ukraine’s sea border with Romania. Maxar images also showed recent damage to buildings on the island. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Renewed fighting around Snake Island in recent days may become a battle for control of the western Black Sea coast, according to some defence officials, as Russian forces struggle to make headway in Ukraine’s north and east.
Ukrainian forces are reported to have driven Russian troops out of the region around the second-largest city, Kharkiv. The Reuters news agency said its journalists had confirmed Ukraine was in control of territory stretching to the banks of the Siverskiy Donets river, around 40km (25 miles) east of Kharkiv.
Regional authorities reported ongoing missile strikes around Poltava and shelling at Dergach, near Kharkiv, that killed two people. Russia’s army said it struck Donetsk and Kharkiv on Thursday, killing more than 170 people and destroying Ukrainian drones and rockets.
Fighting has continued in Ukraine’s south and east. Ukraine’s presidency said shelling continued throughout Lugansk – part of the Donbas region where Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian armour and Kremlin-backed separatists.
Zelensky said in his Thursday address to the nation that Russian forces had destroyed 570 health care facilities in the country, including 101 hospitals. “What for? It’s nonsense. It’s barbarity.”
In the north-eastern region of Chernihiv, three people were killed and 12 others wounded on Thursday in a strike on a school in Novgorod-Siversky, the emergency services said.
Iryna Vereshchuk, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister, said “difficult talks” were under way over the evacuation of 38 seriously wounded troops from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. “We have started a new round of negotiations around a road map for an [evacuation] operation. And we will start with those who are badly wounded,” she told 1+1 television.
Disputes have intensified over Russian supplies of energy to Europe – still Moscow’s biggest source of funds and Europe’s biggest source of heat and power.
Moscow said it would halt gas flows to Germany through the main pipeline over Poland, while Kyiv said it would not reopen a pipeline route it shut this week unless it regains control of areas from pro-Russian fighters. Prices for gas in Europe surged.