A member of a newly-formed pro-Russian armed group called the Russian Orthodox Army mans a barricade near Donetsk airport May 29, 2014. Pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter on Thursday, killing 14 soldiers including a general, as government forces pressed ahead with an offensive to crush rebellions in the east swiftly following the election of a new president. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

British man Paul Urey, who was captured by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region in April, died in custody on July 10. This was announced by a spokeswoman for the separatists on Friday in the online service Telegram.

According to media reports, he was 45 years old. According to his family, Urey was working as a humanitarian in Ukraine when he was arrested by troops loyal to Moscow.

The separatist spokeswoman claims that the Briton was not a humanitarian worker but a mercenary involved in combat operations.

A UK government spokesman said in London the reports of Paul Urey’s death were “alarming”. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Urey’s mother said her son was diabetic and needed insulin. The spokeswoman for the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic” claimed the Briton had suffered from multiple chronic illnesses and had mental health problems.

Despite “the seriousness of the crimes” he was accused of, Urey received “appropriate medical care” in detention. Nevertheless, he died in view of “his diagnosis and the stress”.

The UK-based aid organization Presidium Network announced on April 29 that two humanitarian workers it knew, Paul Urey and Dylan Healy, had been captured by the Russian army in southern Ukraine. There they tried to bring a woman and her two children to safety.

Since the start of the Russian military offensive, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have arrested several foreigners whom they accuse of having fought for Ukraine as mercenaries.

The Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” had sentenced the British Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and the Moroccan Saaudun Brahim to death in early June. The UK protested sharply. (AFP/dpa)