Putting Russian soldier on trial for ‘war crimes’ weakens fight against Putin’s war

By Roy Landersen
May 30, 2022

Ukrainian prosecutors rushed to put 21-year-old Russian Sgt. Vadim Shysimarin on trial May 13, charging him with having committed “war crimes.” This is the first of what authorities there say will be hundreds of such prosecutions. If convicted Shysimarin faces 10 to 15 years in prison. He’s accused of shooting an unarmed civilian Feb. 28, four days into Moscow’s invasion. Both he and the prosecution agree that he acted under orders from above.

This is a blow to forging solidarity between working people in both Ukraine and Russia in the fight against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The youthful troops, often conscripts from rural areas, are the cannon fodder in the Russian capitalist rulers’ war. Many have refused to fire on civilians or rendered their equipment nonfunctional. The responsibility for any inhuman conduct by Moscow’s forces lies squarely with the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin and his military high command.

By launching these trials, Kyiv also stymies any fraternal appeals to rank-and-file Russian soldiers, and ignores reports of deadly misconduct among its own forces.

The imperialist rulers of the U.S., U.K. and others use the highly publicized horrors of Moscow’s war to help mobilize bourgeois public opinion at home behind their own drives to expand their military forces and deepen economic sanctions that fall hardest on working people in Russia.

The Nuremburg trials of Nazi leaders at the end of World War II were imposed by Washington, Moscow and their allies, the victors in that bloody conflict. Comparable or worse war crimes by the “Allies,” such as firebombing working-class areas of Hamburg and Dresden in Germany and dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, were not put on trial.

“While using the Nuremberg trial to cover up the real roots of German fascism, the main aim of the Allied imperialists was to establish, through a pretended impartial juridical procedure, the exclusive ‘war guilt’ of Germany,” the Oct. 12, 1946, Militant  reported. “Thus, Allied imperialism hoped to conceal its equal complicity with German imperialism in unleashing the Second World War.”

“If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals,” said Gen. Curtis LeMay, wartime head of the U.S. Air Force.

Taking the moral high ground, with a fraternal class appeal by Ukrainian working people to the sons of Russian workers and farmers in uniform and their families in Russia would speed the disintegration of the invading army’s discipline, hastening the end of the war — and Putin’s regime.