Russia court sentences to death British mercenaries captured in Ukraine

Two Britons and a Moroccan national have been sentenced to death by a court in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists after being found guilty of working as mercenaries for Kyiv. #WhisperEyeNes

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner from the UK and Brahim Saadoun from Morocco could face a firing squad after their conviction by the so-called supreme court of the Donetsk region, which was reported by Russian news agencies. The sentences could be commuted to 25 years in prison.

The three men say they were fighting as marines in the regular Ukrainian armed forces and are therefore subject to the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.

Ukraine’s general staff said as regular military the three were entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention. It added that all foreigners engaged in hostilities had been “admitted voluntarily to military service under a contract in accordance with the 1992 law of Ukraine on Military Duty and Military Service”.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said the judgment was a sham: “I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine.

“They are prisoners of war. This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy,” Truss said in a tweet.

A spokesman for the UK prime minister said the UK was working with the Ukrainian government to try to secure the men’s release.

Aslin and Pinner were captured in April while fighting against Russian forces in the south-eastern city of Mariupol. Pinner had lived in the city since 2018, had a Ukrainian wife and had previously told Sky News he was serving his fourth tour for the Ukrainian army.

A Ukrainian court last month sentenced one captured Russian soldier to life in prison after he admitted killing a civilian, while two more were sentenced to 11 and a half years behind bars for shelling civilian neighbourhoods.

Ukrainian prosecutors have launched more than 16,000 probes into war crimes allegedly conducted by Russia’s invading forces.

Separately, Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Thursday it was his destiny to “return and fortify” territories, much like it had been for Tsar Peter I.

Putin made the comments, which provide some insight into his decision-making and how he perceives Russia’s actions in Ukraine, on the 350th anniversary of the birthday of Peter I, who is also known as Peter the Great.

“Peter the Great returned territories and fortified them. This destiny has also fallen to us,” Putin said.

Putin also noted that Peter I fought the Great Northern War between 1700 and 1721 and “where it may seem that he was fighting against Sweden, and seizing lands . . . He wasn’t seizing anything. He was actually returning [lands that Russia had lost].” 

Putin added that it was not possible to box in or fence off a country such as Russia, the state Tass news agency reported. Russia, he said, had no intention of boxing itself in either.

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