British and UN official condemn Donbass death sentences against British soldiers

  • Two men convicted by the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic
  • Provisions of a ‘flagrant breach’ of the war treaty: UK gears
  • The family says they were fighting as part of the Ukrainian army
  • Britain is seeking their release. Talk to Ukraine, not Russia

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Friday condemned the Russian proxy authorities in Donbas for what it called a “flagrant violation” of the Geneva Convention in sentencing to death two British citizens captured in the breakaway region while fighting for Ukraine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he was talking to Ukraine, not Russia, about Aiden Aslin and Sean Boehner, who were convicted of “mercenary activities” by a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Aslin’s family said he and Benner “are not, and never will be, mercenaries.”

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The family said in a statement that they were living in Ukraine when the war broke out and that “as members of the Ukrainian armed forces, they should be treated with respect like any other prisoners of war.”

A UN official said trials conducted under these circumstances amounted to war crimes, while Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned what he described as a “sham trial of prisoners of war”.

Prime Minister Johnson’s spokesman said Britain’s priority was to work with Kyiv to secure the soldiers’ speedy release.

When asked whether Britain would talk to Russia, he replied: “We do not have regular interaction with the Russians.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who spoke with Kuleba on Friday, called the ruling a “flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention”. Read more

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A still image, taken from footage of the Supreme Court of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, shows Britons Aiden Aslin, Sean Benner and Moroccan Ibrahim Saadoun who were captured by Russian forces during a military conflict in Ukraine, in a cage in a courtroom at a certain location. Like Donetsk, Ukraine, in a still image from a video released June 8, 2022. Video captured June 8, 2022. Supreme Court of the Donetsk People’s Republic / Posted via REUTERS TV

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Britain’s reaction to such rulings was “often hysterical” and that it should turn to the self-proclaimed DRC authorities.

Britain does not recognize the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Ukrainian government does not control the eastern parts controlled by the separatists.

Russia deployed massive firepower there to expand the separatists’ influence as part of its invasion of Ukraine, which it called a “special military operation.” Read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the two Britons and Moroccan Ibrahim Saadoun, who were sentenced to death, committed crimes on the territory of the self-proclaimed separatist state.

Of the UN member states, only Russia recognizes the entire Ukrainian province of Donetsk, much of which is still under Ukrainian control, as an independent Democratic Republic of the Congo. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

A senior Ukrainian official said Russia wanted to use foreigners as hostages to pressure the West over peace negotiations. Read more

The UN official, speaking in Geneva, expressed his concern.

“According to the main command of Ukraine, all the men were part of the Ukrainian armed forces – and if so, they should not be considered mercenaries,” he told reporters.

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Additional reporting by Paul Carell in Geneva and David Leungren in Ottawa. Editing by William James, Philippa Fletcher and John Stonestreet

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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