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War crimes verdict due in Kyiv court; Russian eastern offensive intensifies

One of the dead in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. AP - Rodrigo Abd

A verdict is due on Monday in the Ukraine conflict's first war crimes trial. The hearing in Kyiv, a public test of the Ukrainian judicial system's independence, comes as international institutions conduct their own investigations into killings that have blighted cities like Bucha and Mariupol.

A panel of judges in Kyiv will on Monday decide the fate of Russian Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin in the conflict's first war crimes trial.

The shaven-headed 21-year-old from Siberia has admitted killing a 62-year-old civilian in the early stages of the invasion, but told the court he was pressured into an act for which he was "truly sorry".

"I was nervous about what was going on. I didn't want to kill," he said from the glass defence box, as the trial concluded Friday.

Shishimarin's lawyer has argued for an acquittal, saying his client was carrying out what he perceived to be a direct order that he initially disobeyed.

Prosecutors, who have asked for a life sentence, said he was "well aware" he was executing a "criminal order".

Scorched-earth tactics

In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, a focus of fierce recent fighting, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said Russian forces were "using scorched-earth tactics, deliberately destroying" the city.

Gaiday said Russia was drawing forces from a vast area, including those withdrawn from the Kharkiv region, others involved in Mariupol's siege, pro-Russian separatist militias, and even troops freshly mobilised from Siberia, and concentrating their firepower on the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

At least seven civilians were killed and eight others wounded in Sunday's bombardment of the Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian army's Facebook page.

Shelling and missile strikes also continued to pound Kharkiv in the north, as well as Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia in the south, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine's parliament on Sunday voted to extend martial law until 23 August.

Russia in the cold at Davos forum

Monday's meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos is expected to be dominated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian business and political leaders, who once participated in debates, have been barred from this year's gathering.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to confer with Davos delegates via videoconference to mark the opening of the forum.

A strong Ukrainian contingent, including the foreign minister, has made the journey to plead their case.

"The major request to the whole world here is: do not stop backing Ukraine," Ukrainian lawmaker Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze told reporters on the eve of the summit.

More than 50 heads of state or government will be among the 2,500 delegates, ranging from business leaders to academics and civil society figures.