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BRITAIN’S Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been criticised for encouraging people to fight in Ukraine after two British nationals were sentenced to death by firing squad.
Former Nottinghamshire care worker Aidan Aslin and former British soldier Shaun Pinner were found guilty of crimes of “mercenary and terrorist” activities by a court in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday.
The pair, who were captured in the eastern city of Mariupol last month, pleaded guilty to the charges, however they were unable to present a defence during the three-day trial which was branded “a sham” by Ms Truss.
She was in discussion with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba yesterday as she sought to secure their release. Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain reportedly believes they may be used as bargaining chips in a prisoner exchange.
Mr Pinner’s mother is anxious that her son and Mr Aslin have “access to proper health services and the Red Cross” and access to independent legal advice, MP for North Bedford Richard Fuller said.
Baroness Helena Kennedy, a senior barrister, slammed the court in Donetsk as a “pop-up court,” adding that the decision “is a comeback for the trial of the two [Russian] men who were tried by the Ukrainian court for war crimes.”
Both men had served in the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria prior to moving to Ukraine and joining the regular armed forces there.
It is argued that this offers them protection as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention and they should not be treated as mercenaries.
Ms Truss has been slammed for a statement made on the BBC Sunday Morning programme in February in which she appeared to encourage British citizens to head to Ukraine to join the fight against Russia.
“That is something people can make their own decisions about. The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe. Absolutely, if people want to support that struggle, I would support them in doing that,” she said.
While she later retracted the remarks it was seen as a green light to join the International Defence Legion of Ukraine, called for by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia says thousands of foreign nationals are fighting in Ukraine while a plethora of NGOs have been established under the guise of carrying out humanitarian aid operations.
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