Wednesday, February 28

“They are not prisoners of war, they are mercenaries”

Correspondent in Moscow



The Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov responded this Friday to the wave of international outrage over the death sentence imposed by a supposed court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) against three foreign brigade members, the British Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and the Moroccan Brahim Saadoun. Lavrov has called for “not interfering” in the decision of a judicial body that kyiv considers completely subservient to the Donetsk separatist leadership, a territorial entity that, except for Russia, practically no one in the rest of the world has recognized.

The Russian foreign minister told the press that “at the moment, all the processes are based on the DNR legislation, since the crimes in question were committed in that territory.

Everything else is a matter of speculation.” The three brigadistas were accused of committing “crimes” against the civilian population of Donetsk and on Thursday they were sentenced to death, which they may appeal within a maximum period of one month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, for its part, assured through a statement that “contrary to the statements of British officials, the citizens mentioned are not prisoners of war, but mercenaries. The mercenaries sent by the West to help the nationalist regime in kyiv are not combatants under international humanitarian law and are not entitled to prisoner of war status.”

In his words, the prisoners were “accused of participating in hostilities on the side of Ukraine as mercenaries and sentenced to death for a combination of crimes.” Zakharova also noted that “for our part, we repeatedly informed the British Embassy in Moscow that all questions about the captured British should be addressed to the authorities” in Donetsk and Lugansk. “As far as we know, London did not address any initiative in this regard, even despite requests from the relatives of the mercenaries to the British authorities,” the Russian diplomatic spokeswoman added.

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Pinner, Aslin and Saadoun surrendered separately in Mariupol in mid-April to rebel forces in Donetsk and were sentenced to death on Thursday. The same day, the British authorities expressed their rejection of the judicial decision. “Of course, we are deeply concerned about this. We constantly say that prisoners of war should not be used for political purposes,” said the official representative of the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. “According to the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to immunity, they should not be tried for participating in combat actions,” the statement said.

Johnson himself said Thursday that he was “dismayed,” according to Downing Street. “It is clear that they served in the Ukrainian armed forces and are prisoners of war,” the spokesman repeated. The British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, The day before, he described the verdict as a “mock trial without legitimacy.” This Thursday he phoned his Ukrainian counterpart, Dimitro Kuleba, to study the next steps to take.

The UN has also reacted to the death sentences of the brigadistas.

The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, based in Geneva, declared this Thursday that “since 2015, we have observed that the so-called judicial system of these self-proclaimed republics (Donetsk and Lugansk) does not comply with the essential guarantees of a fair process.” In his view, “these POW trials constitute yet another war crime.” It so happens that the three brigade members sentenced to death enlisted in the Ukrainian Army before the start of the Russian invasion.

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