Russian-backed court charge three men as mercenaries — who will face death penalty

A Russian-backed separatist court in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk 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 citizen 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. .

In response to the allegations, the Croatian Foreign Ministry said: “Croatia rejects the allegations and does not consider them to be established and legitimate as they are against international law.”
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
According to a judge, the trial of all those arrested will begin in October.
According to a judge, the trial of all those arrested will begin in October.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

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.

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

Responding to the accusations against Pribeg, the Croatian Foreign Ministry said: “Croatia rejects the accusation and considers it unfounded and legitimate as it contradicts 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 on charges of 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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