Lavrov: Death Penalty for Mercs in DPR Based on Republic's Laws, Shouldn't Be Interfered With
The Supreme Court of the Donetsk People's Republic condemned three foreign nationals - two Britons and a Moroccan - to death by firing squad for their activities as mercenaries in the armed conflict in Ukraine. Western officials and media have slammed the decision.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the international community and media not to speculate on the sentencing of the three foreign mercenaries convicted of grave crimes in the Donetsk People's Republic.
"At the moment, all of the processes you have mentioned are based on the laws of the Donetsk People's Republic, because the crimes in question were committed on the territory of the DPR. Everything else is a subject for speculation; I would not interfere in the work of the judicial and legal system of the Donetsk People's Republic", Lavrov told journalists on Friday.
Later in the day on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry indicated that London had not contacted Moscow over the fate of its nationals, and accused British authorities of being disinterested in their fate.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the Donetsk People's Republic sentenced Brits Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan national Saadun Brahim to death by firing squad after the three pleaded guilty to acts aimed at seizing power by force. Aslin also pleaded guilty to undergoing training for the purposes of engaging in terrorist activities. The court ruled that all three men acted as paid mercenaries for the Ukrainian government.
The three men have the right to appeal the court's decision within one month, with a defence lawyer confirming that an appeal is planned to try to spare the convicts, and talk the death penalty down to 25 years in prison.
US, UK React
Western officials and media condemned the court's decision, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken characterising it as a "sham 'trial'" against "lawful combatants serving in Ukraine's Armed Forces".
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss similarly dubbed the ruling a "sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy" and promised that the government would do "everything we can" to support Aslin and Pinner's families.
Aslin and Pinner were captured by Donbass militia forces in Mariupol in mid-April, with the UK demanding that the combatants be deemed Ukrainian soldiers and treated as such according to international rules of warfare. Brahim surrendered to Donbass and Russian forces in mid-March during fighting for the town of Volnovakha, in the DPR's southwest.
Oksana Marchenko, wife of the detained Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, appealed to the British men's families, and the UK government, after their capture to pressure Kiev into exchanging the mercs for her husband, whom Ukrainian authorities have accused of having "pro-Russia" sympathies.
The DPR is known to have issued several death sentences throughout the years of its existence, but none have yet been carried out.
Russian and Donbass forces have repeatedly urged foreigners to stay out of the conflict in Ukraine, with the Russian military warning that the rules of warfare do not apply to mercenaries, and that anyone who was captured alive would be held criminally liable for their actions. Last week, the MoD reported that the number of foreign fighters in Ukraine had dropped from an estimated 6,600 to some 3,500.
The dropping numbers have been accounted for by a number of factors, including heavy losses in battle, disillusionment with their Ukrainian hosts after witnessing suspected war crimes, or disappointment with conditions on the battlefield, in which, atypically for Western mercenaries, their side lacks the air, missile, and artillery superiority normally enjoyed.
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