The Supreme Court of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has sentenced to death three foreign fighters in the ranks of the Ukrainian armed forces as mercenaries. According to the Russian news agency TASS, the death penalty will be imposed for “all crimes taken together”. The accused are two Britons and one Moroccan. You can still appeal the verdict within one month.
Russian media also said that the three men had the opportunity to petition the leadership of the pro-Russian separatist republic for clemency. If accepted, the death penalty could be commuted to life imprisonment or 25 years in a penal colony, it said.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the death penalty “a bogus sentence devoid of any legitimacy”. Downing Street also said it was deeply concerned and would continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities to work towards the release of captured British nationals who had fought alongside Ukraine. Before the verdict was announced, the British Foreign Office said the prisoners were being used for political purposes.
The trial against the three men began on Wednesday, largely closed to the public. According to the BBC, they are Moroccan Saaudun Brahim and Brits Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, both from Bedfordshire. They are accused of acts of violent seizure of power. According to the court, the defendants “admitted their guilt”. One of the men also “admitted to having been trained in terrorist attacks”.
The two Britons were captured by pro-Russian forces in mid-April in the southeastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol. According to media reports, both had lived in Ukraine before the war and also married there. Aiden Aslin’s family said in a statement, according to the BBC, that they are currently working with the Ukrainian government and foreign ministry “to try to bring Aiden home,” it said.
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After the Russian invasion, they fought on the side of the Ukrainian army. However, the Russian leadership has repeatedly stated in the past that it generally regards foreigners as mercenaries. The spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, recently threatened that they would not be considered combatants and would not be subject to international laws protecting prisoners of war.