Ukraine’s top prosecutor has disclosed plans for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier, as fighting raged in the east and south and the Kremlin entertained the possibility of annexing a corner of the country.
Prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said her office had charged Sergeant Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, with the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who was shot while riding a bicycle in February, four days into the war.
Shyshimarin, who served with a tank unit, was accused of firing through a car window in the north-eastern village of Chupakhivka.
Ms Venediktova said the soldier could get up to 15 years in prison. She did not say when the trial would start.
Many of the alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow’s forces aborted their bid to capture Kyiv and withdrew from around the capital, exposing mass graves and streets and yards strewn with bodies in towns such as Bucha.
Residents told of killings, burnings, rape, torture and dismemberment.
On the economic front, Ukraine shut down one of the pipelines that carry Russian gas across the country to homes and industries in western Europe, the first time since the start of the war that Kyiv has disrupted the flow westward of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports.
The immediate effect is likely to be limited, in part because Russia can divert the gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers.
“The city of Kherson is Russia,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kherson regional administration, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
That raised the possibility that the Kremlin would seek to break off another piece of Ukraine as it tries to salvage an invasion gone awry. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, which borders the Kherson region, in 2014, a move denounced as illegal and rejected by most of the international community.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be “up to the residents of the Kherson region after all to decide whether such an appeal should be made or not”. He said any move to annexe territory would have to be closely evaluated by legal experts to make sure it is “absolutely legitimate, as it was with Crimea”.
Moscow annexed Crimea after holding a referendum there over whether it wanted to become part of Russia.
Kherson, a Black Sea port of roughly 300,000 people, provides access to fresh water to Crimea and is seen a gateway to wider Russian control over southern Ukraine.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said a Russian rocket attack targeted an area around Zaporizhzhia, destroying unspecified infrastructure. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The south-eastern city has been a refuge for civilians fleeing the Russian siege in the devastated port city of Mariupol.
Russian forces continued to pound the steel plant that is the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, its defenders said. The Azov Regiment said on social media that Russian forces had carried out 38 air strikes in the previous 24 hours on the grounds of the Azovstal steelworks.
The plant, with its network of tunnels and bunkers, has sheltered hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians during a months-long siege. Scores of civilians were evacuated in recent days, but Ukrainian officials said some may still be trapped there.