Donetsk court charges Britons, Swede and Croat as mercenaries, 3 face death penalty

Aug 15 (Reuters) – A Russian-backed separatist court in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on Monday charged five foreign nationals caught fighting with Ukrainian forces as mercenaries and three could face the death penalty, Russian media said.

Briton John Harding, Croatian Vjekoslav Pribeg and Swedish national Matthias Gustafsson, who were captured in and around the port city of Mariupol, face the possible death penalty under the law of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Russian state news agency TASS reported. .

Two other Britons, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, were also charged but not sentenced to death. All five accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, TASS reported.

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The trial will resume in early October, the judge noted.

Responding to the accusations against Pribeg, the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “Croatia rejects the accusations and considers them unfounded and legitimate as they contradict international law and international conventions on the treatment of detained civilians and prisoners of war.”

The British Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Donetsk authorities in June sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan citizen to death for trying to seize power by force and being mercenaries caught fighting alongside Ukrainian forces against Russia.

Foreign governments have refused to negotiate with the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of two Russian-backed entities that have controlled parts of eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region since 2014, citing its internationally recognized status as part of Ukraine.

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Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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