Three fighters captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death are being used as “hostages” by Russia to pressure the West over peace talks, a senior Ukrainian official said on Friday.
“The trial of the foreigners raises the stakes in the Russian Federation’s negotiation process. They are using them as hostages to pressure the world over the negotiation process,” he told state television.
Two Britons and a Moroccan were sentenced to death on Thursday by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.
They have been brought to justice after a Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison last month for killing an unarmed civilian in Ukraine.
Kyiv said Thursday’s court ruling had no authority, that the fighters were members of Ukraine’s armed forces and were subject to Geneva Convention protections.
Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry, said on Friday Ukraine would coordinate its stance on sentencing with Britain, the United States and the European Union.
Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia are frozen. Russia has accused Ukraine of blocking the talks, but Kyiv says Moscow is to blame.
Britain on Friday condemned Russian proxy authorities in the Donbass for what it called a “flagrant violation” of the Geneva Convention by sentencing to death two British nationals captured in the separatist region while fighting for Ukraine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he was speaking to Ukraine rather than Russia about the situation of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, who were convicted of ‘mercenary activity’ on Thursday by a court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
Aslin’s family said he and Pinner “are not and have never been mercenaries”.
They were living in Ukraine when war broke out and “as members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces they should be treated with respect like any other POW,” the family said in a statement.
[with inputs from agencies]
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