(AP) — Two British citizens and a Moroccan were sentenced to death Thursday by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine for fighting on Ukraine’s side.
A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic found the three men guilty of working toward a violent overthrow of power, an offense punishable by death in the unrecognised republic. They were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.
Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the three — Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saaudun Brahim — are set to face a firing squad. They have a month to appeal.
The separatists had claimed that the three fighters are “mercenaries” who are not entitled to the usual protections afforded prisoners of war.
In response, Aslin and Pinner’s families said that the men, who are both said to have lived in Ukraine since 2018, were “long-serving” members of the Ukrainian military.
The three fought alongside Ukrainian troops. Pinner and Aslin surrendered to pro-Russian forces in the southern port of Mariupol in mid-April, while Brahim did so in mid-March in the eastern city of Volnovakha.
The Russian military has argued that foreign mercenaries fighting on Ukraine’s side are not combatants and should expect a long prison term, at best, if captured. Another British fighter captured by the pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill, is awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, Russian forces pounded the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk in fierce, street-by-street combat that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said could determine the fate of the Donbas, the country’s industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.