A court in central Ukraine sentenced two Russian soldiers on Tuesday to 11 and a half years in prison for shelling a town in the country’s northeast during the war. It was the second guilty verdict handed down by Ukrainian courts for war crimes since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February.
The court found the soldiers, Aleksandr Bobikin and Aleksandr Ivanov, an artillery driver and a gunner, guilty of shelling the town of Derhachi, north of Kharkiv, from Russia.
“The guilt of Bobikin and Ivanov has been proven in full,” Judge Evhen Bolybok told the courtroom in the Kotelva district court in central Ukraine.
When the proceedings began last week, both men pleaded guilty to being members of a unit that targeted Derhachi with shelling from the region of Belgorod, on the Russian side of the border. The men and their unit had then entered Ukraine and continued attacking the town. They later surrendered to the Ukrainian authorities.
Prosecutors said the soldiers had shelled an educational facility, though no casualties were registered. The defense attorneys argued that both defendants had been following orders.
The two soldiers were charged with violating the laws and customs of war. The charge is laid out by the Geneva Conventions, to which Ukraine is a party. Prosecutors had sought a 12-year sentence.
Derhachi, like Kharkiv and its other northern suburbs, is still regularly targeted by Russian positions less than 10 miles away. Houses are being destroyed on a daily basis, said Vyacheslav Fysun, a local councilman, when New York Times journalists visited over the weekend. Hundreds of people are still living in underground shelters.
The verdict is part of Ukraine’s large undertaking to account for the destruction and death that Russian soldiers have wrought since February. Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Irina Venediktova, has said that there are at least 11,000 investigations underway that could result in war crimes indictments.
Ms. Venediktova also announced on Monday that the first case involving wartime rape had been sent to trial. “Mikhail Romanov will be tried for the murder of a civilian man and the sexual abuse of his wife,” Ms. Venediktova wrote on Facebook on Monday.
The prosecutor said the accused was a serviceman of the 239th Regiment of the 90th Guards Rifle Vitebsk-Novgorod Division of the Russian Armed Forces.
In March, during the occupation of the Brovary district in the Kyiv region, “He shot and killed the owner of a house while intoxicated and raped his wife, together with another occupant immediately after the murder,” Ms. Venediktova wrote. “They threatened the woman with possible violence against her child.”