Russia on Friday called for an end to “interference” in the judicial system of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, after the death sentence of two British citizens and a Moroccan for participating in the Ukrainian war in Ukraine.
Cited by the Interfax news agency, Russian diplomacy chief Sergei Lavrov stressed that “crimes committed by foreign mercenaries in the territory were considered by the Donetsk authorities in accordance with local legislation”.
“At the moment, all the competent processes are being carried out in accordance with the legislation of the republic, given that these crimes were committed in that territory”, he said.
According to Lavrov, “everything else is subject to speculation.”
Shortly after the Russian invasion, on February 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the creation of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Legion, a detachment through which Kiev sought to augment its armed forces with international volunteers.
According to Russian authorities, nearly 7,000 foreigners from more than 60 countries have joined Ukrainian forces to participate in the conflict.
Russia says just over 1,000 of these “foreign mercenaries” were captured, while around 400 were detained during the siege of steelmaker Azovstal.
Today, in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights defended that the death sentence of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Ukrainians constitutes a “war crime”.
“Since 2015, we have observed that the so-called judicial system of these self-proclaimed republics does not fulfill essential guarantees of a fair trial (…). Such trials against prisoners of war constitute a war crime,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the High Commissioner, during a press conference in Geneva.
Shamdasani stressed that in the event of a death sentence, “the guarantees of a fair trial are even more important”.
The official Russian news agency TASS reported on Thursday that the Supreme Court of the People’s Republic of Donetsk sentenced to death “British Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, accused of participating in combat as mercenaries”.
In London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his horror at the death sentences, a Downing Street spokesman said today.
The official source stressed that the conservative leader “is following the case closely and has asked members of his government to do everything in their power to try to reunite them with their families as soon as possible”.
Also in London, the relatives of the two Britons sentenced to death today asked that their lives be spared.
According to information from the BBC television station, the families of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner highlighted the importance of getting help for both to have access to medical care and legal assistance after being convicted of participating in the war in Ukraine on behalf of the Ukrainian side.
The request comes after the UK and Ukrainian governments asserted that the conviction is in violation of the Geneva Convention.
British diplomat Liz Truss, who plans to raise the matter with her Ukrainian counterpart throughout the day, insisted they were “prisoners of war” and stressed that the trial “has no legitimacy”.
The two Brits, aged 28 and 48 respectively, were living in Ukraine when war broke out and were detained in April by Russian forces while defending the city of Mariupol.
Both have resided in Ukraine since 2018 and Aslin has dual nationality, while Pinner is married to a Ukrainian.
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