UWest and Poland condemned the pro-Moscow court for sentenceing two British citizens and one Moroccan to death in connection with fighting for Ukraine. The West called it a scam and an infringement of the war rules.
Meanwhile, as the Kremlin’s forces continued a grinding war of attrition in the east, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday appeared to liken his actions to those of Peter the Great in the 18th century and said the country needs to “take back” historic Russian lands.
Continue reading: The Ukraine War Is Becoming Putin’s Vietnam
The court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine found the three fighters guilty of seeking the violent overthrow of power, an offense punishable by death in the unrecognized eastern republic. They were also found guilty of terrorist acts and mercenary activity.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the defendants—identified as Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, and Brahim Saadoun—will face a firing squad. The defendants have one month to appeal.
The separatist side argued that the three were “mercenaries” not entitled to the usual protections accorded prisoners of war. They are the first foreign fighters sentenced by Ukraine’s Russian-backed rebels.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko condemned the proceedings as legally invalid, saying, “Such show trials put the interests of propaganda above the law and morality.” He said that all foreign citizens fighting as part of Ukraine’s armed forces should be considered Ukrainian military personnel and protected as such.
British Foreign Secretary Luz Truss pronounced the sentencing a “sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davies said that under the Geneva Conventions, POWs are entitled to immunity as combatants.
Saadoun’s father, Taher Saadoun, told the Moroccan online Arab-language newspaper Madar 21 that his son is not a mercenary and that he holds Ukrainian citizenship.
Aslin’s and Pinner’s families have said that the two men were long-serving members of the Ukrainian military. They are believed to both have been living in Ukraine since 2018.
They fought with Ukrainian troops in the south port of Mariupol, where Aslin was defeated in mid-April. Saadoun captured in mid March in the eastern city Volnovakha.
Andrew Hill is another British combatant taken hostage by pro-Russian forces and is currently awaiting trial.
The Russian military has argued that foreign mercenaries fighting on Ukraine’s side are not combatants and should expect long prison terms, at best, if captured.
Continue reading: Meet the Foreign Volunteers Risking Their Lives to Defend Ukraine—and Europe
Putin drew parallels between Peter the Great’s founding of St. Petersburg and modern-day Russia’s ambitions.
When the czar founded the new capital, “no European country recognized it as Russia. Everybody recognized it as Sweden,” Putin said. He added: “What was (Peter) doing? Reforcing and taking back. That’s what he did. And it looks like it fell on us to take back and reinforce as well.”
Putin appeared also to open the possibility of further Russian territorial expansion.
“It’s impossible—Do you understand?—impossible to build a fence around a country like Russia. And we do not intend to build that fence,” the Russian leader said.
In other developments, French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that France was ready to send more “heavy weapons” to Ukraine, according to Macron’s office. French officials didn’t elaborate further on the weaponry. The phone conversation came after Macron angered Ukrainian officials by saying world powers should not “humiliate” Putin.
Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian army continued to push Russian forces back from Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, which lies to the north of the Donbas. After a tower that was used for transmission was destroyed, the broadcast of Ukrainian television has been restored.
“Hitting television centers, destroying communication channels, leaving people isolated—this is the tactic of the occupiers that they cannot do without, for openness and honesty also are weapons against all that the Russian state does,” he said late Thursday in his evening address.
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