Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine have been sentenced to death and are set to face a firing squad after a sham three-day trial have sparked outrage from the UK and its Western allies.
Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, were sentenced on Thursday by a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which is not internationally recognised, weeks after they were captured during the siege of Mariupol.
A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted alongside them.
The men were accused of being mercenaries after fighting with Ukrainian troops, with the judge saying they were guilty of two war crimes. He said the aggregated penalty for the men was death.
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Aslin joined the Ukrainian marines in 2018 and had been fighting with his unit in Mariupol during the Ukraine crisis.
In April he was captured after his unit was surrounded and they ran out of ammunition and supplies.
Russia claims he is a foreign mercenary which would prevent him from having protection under the Geneva Convention when, in fact, Aslin holds dual citizenship and was fighting with the Ukrainian.
Both Britons have said they were serving in the Ukrainian marines, making them active-duty soldiers who should be protected by the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war. However, Russian state media has portrayed the men as mercenaries, and the court has convicted them on the charge of “being a mercenary”.
The UK government is “deeply concerned” over the death sentences given to Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner, Downing Street has said.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the sentencing and described it as a “sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy”.
“My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them.”
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, was set up by pro-Russian separatists in 2014.
Prior to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir
Putin announced that he was recognising the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, in a move condemned by Nato and Western countries.
A month into its invasion, Russia scaled back its ambitions to capture Kyiv, and instead moved its focus to Donbas.