Kyiv: Russian soldier sentenced to life

A 21-year-old Russian soldier has been sentenced to life in prison in the first war crimes trial since the war in Ukraine began. He confessed to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian under pressure from his superior as they were trying to retreat and escape back to Russia in a stolen car in the first days of the war. His lawyer has said he will appeal the judgment. Europe's press takes stock of the trial from different perspectives.

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Die Welt (DE) /

War leaves behind human ruins

The daily Die Welt stresses the catastrophic consequences of war:

“Anyone who saw the 21-year-old milksop standing in court, terrified and weak at the knees, couldn't but be moved. ... It is entirely possible that he was one of those recruits who only realised afterwards that they had been caught up in the wholesale butchery of war. Nothing justifies their actions. ... But one can still be saddened. War is a catastrophe. It kills. It destroys. It razes cities to the ground and turns children, women and men into human ruins.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Due process hardly possible at present

The accused was denied the right to properly defend themselves, criticises La Stampa:

“Even Nazi criminals were granted the right to appoint defence lawyers of their own choosing in Nuremberg. This was possible because the war was over. ... But is a Ukrainian public defender compatible with the concept of justice? And a rather taciturn lawyer at that, whose defence strategy was limited to pointing to the heinousness of the crime committed by his client. ... This is about obligatory punishment for the guilty and laying the foundations for the potential reconstruction of the coexistence that was torn apart by the crime. Can putting the enemy on trial when the war is still raging achieve this?”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

No cheap manoeuvre

taz newspaper believes the trial could have a signal effect:

“Irrespective of the outcome of the proceedings before a higher instance, this procedure suggests that the trial is following rule of law criteria and that the rights of the accused are being respected. This should prove wrong all those who see the proceedings as a cheap manoeuvre. ... The trial, which even the Russian state media are covering, could also get things moving among the Russian public: so this is the so-called 'special operation' - a cruel war that must not be called that. Even soldiers acting at the lowest end of the chain of command are being held accountable for their actions.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A contrast to Russia's arbitrary justice

The judgement is only the beginning of the legal process, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Although the ruling is not yet legally binding, it is a first milestone in the legal process of dealing with the crimes committed during the war. ... Bringing the first perpetrators to justice swiftly is important for the victims' families and also as a deterrent. Ukraine wants to present itself as a state governed by the rule of law, in contrast to the arbitrary Russian regime. It is all the more important that this first trial against Vadim S. is judged to be fair and transparent by international experts. The hearing was public, broadcast online, and media as well as bereaved families had access.”