Will 21-year-old Russian soldier really spend his life in prison?

In Ukraine, a 21-year-old Russian soldier has been sentenced to life in the country's first war crimes trial. 

He pleaded guilty to killing a civilian on Monday (NZT), but says he was acting on orders. 

Ukraine is investigating 13,000 cases of Russian alleged war crimes, with 48 more Russian soldiers set to face trial in the coming weeks.

Speaking to Lloyd Burr on Today FM, Geoffrey Miller from the Democracy Project says the soldier will carry out their sentence in Ukraine. 

"He's been sentenced to life in prison there, in Ukraine, and that's where he will serve his sentence," says Miller.

"But I don't think he will really end up spending the rest of his life there."

Miller says it's more likely the soldier will be swapped, at some point, for Ukranians who have been captured by russians. 

"Remember, the Azovstal plant in Mariupol had around 2000 Ukrainians holed up there. They've now surrendered to Russian forces, have been captured, and I think they'll be traded at some point," says Miller.

"But for the time being, he's in a Ukrainian prison, Vadim Shishimarin, and that's where he will stay."

Miller says prisoner swaps are quite common in war, and remembers the Cold War as a prime example.

"It was a big Steven Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, that was based on these prisoner swaps in Berlin. So they were swapped in the dead of night, and you continue to have these.

"There was a prisoner swap actually not that long ago, where a US Marine, who was captured in Russia, was swapped in Turkey for a Russian who'd been a Russian pilot smuggling in the US. So they still happen," says Miller. 

Miller says prisoner swaps may be on a much larger scale in this war between Russia and Ukraine.

"Obviously there are thousands of Ukrainians now who have been captured out of this Azovstal plant, and Ukrainians have certainly captured quite a few Russians, including this Russian soldier."

Listen to the interview between Geoffrey Miller and Lloyd Burr above.

You can also download the full interview on the Lloyd Burr Live podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.