UK condemns Donetsk death penalties


LONDON

Britain on Thursday condemned the death sentences issued to two of its citizens by a court in Russian-backed Donetsk.

“I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

Claiming that the men whom the court said were mercenaries fighting on the side of Ukrainian forces were “prisoners of war,” Truss said: “This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy … my thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them.”

A spokesperson for Downing Street said they were “obviously deeply concerned by this.”

“We have said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes. You will know that under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.”

The two British men, alongside a third man, Moroccan Saladin Brahim, were sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed independent enclave of Donetsk for allegedly taking part in “hostilities on the side of the Ukrainian armed forces in the capacity of mercenaries,” according to a report by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

They pleaded guilty to all charges, the report said, adding that all three plan to appeal the verdict.

Aslin is the first foreign fighter who was arrested and questioned by British counterterrorism authorities for his involvement with the PKK/YPG terror group on his return from Syria in 2017.

He was questioned under the UK’s Terrorism Act over a suspicion of engaging “in the preparation to fight against Daesh,” and possessing “articles for terrorist purposes in Iraq/Syria.”

Daesh is another name for the ISIS terror group.

Donetsk and Luhansk — both parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region bordering Russia — were the scene of a Russian-backed insurgency starting in 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

On the eve of Russia starting the Ukraine war this Feb. 24, President Vladimir Putin recognized the “independence” of Donetsk and Luhansk.

As with Crimea, all of Donbas is still internationally recognized as Ukrainian territory, and the country’s armed forces continue to fight for it.



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