Defending a Russian soldier accused of a war crime in Ucraina is no easy task, motivo per cui alcune persone hanno descritto Viktor Ovsyannikov come "l'avvocato del diavolo".
Ma il 43enne ucraino è impenitente. “First of all, I am defending a person, not a crime,” Ovsyannikov said on Sunday on the eve of the verdict in the trial of 21-year-old tank commander Vadim Shysimarin, who has already pleaded guilty to killing an an unarmed civilian in late February. “I’m trying to prove that my defendant’s actions were misqualified. It’s up to judges to decide. I just do my job.”
“My family, friends and colleagues support me,” ha aggiunto Ovsyannikov. “They know someone has to do it. But there are other people 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 asked judges in the courtroom in Kyiv to acquit Shysimarin despite his guilty plea, on the grounds that he had executed an order. The Ukrainian prosecutor Andriy Syniuk said the instruction to open fire could not be considered a military order and therefore did not protect Shysimarin from responsibility.
Ukraine has made seeking justice for atrocities committed by Russian troops a priority and national prosecutors are risking their own lives to collect evidence of war crimes even in areas still threatened by enemy forces or laced with mines.
Shysimarin comes from Ust Illyinsk in the south-east Irkutsk region of Russia and was a commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division on 28 febbraio, the day that 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov died in Chupakhivka village.
Prosecutors say a group of Russian soldiers shot at a civilian vehicle after their convoy came under attack from Ukrainian forces, then stole the car and drove it away. Successivamente si sono imbattuti nella vittima disarmata, who was talking on his phone a few dozen metres from his home. Uno degli uomini nell'auto ha detto a Shysimarin di "uccidere un civile in modo che non lo denunciasse ai difensori ucraini", secondo i pubblici ministeri. He opened fire out of the car window, and shot down Shelipov.
This is not Ovsyannikov’s first controversial trial. Nel 2014, he defended the Russia-backed former president Viktor Yanukovych, who was eventually found guilty of high treason and sentenced in absentia to 13 years in prison over attempts to quash a pro-western uprising.
Ovsyannikov argues that ever since he accepted the task of defending Shysimarin, people have asked him the same question: “How can you defend a war criminal?"
“And I am so tired of explaining that, in Ukraine, only a court of law can recognise one as a criminal. E, as far as I know, there is no verdict for my defendant at the moment.”
The trial is unprecedented in Ukraine, where authorities are moving fast and trying to carry out justice while conflict is ongoing. Il procuratore generale dell'Ucraina, Iryna Venediktova, ha detto che si sta preparando di più 40 casi di processi per crimini di guerra. Monday’s verdict is being seen as a public test of the independence of Ukraine’s judicial system.
"Certo, it is quite an important test and there is even stronger pressure from society on the judges to find him guilty,” said Ovsyannikov
“My first impression of Shysimarin was of an ordinary person, just like you or me,” Ovsyannikov said. “My second impression, when I started to work with him, is that he began to understand what had done. The only thing he desires now is to go back home. I am under this impression that he perceives this as some kind of a dream.”
“Sometimes," Ha aggiunto. “I feel pity for him.”