The UK government has condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war after two more British men held by Russian proxies in east Ukraine and charged with “mercenary activities” could face the death penalty.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office released a statement following the news that Andrew Hill of Plymouth and Dylan Healy of Huntingdon were reported to have been charged with “forcible seizure of power” and undergoing “terrorist” training, according to a state news agency in Russian-controlled Donetsk.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war and civilians for political purposes and have raised this with Russia,’’ the statement said. “We are in constant contact with the government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released.”
Hill, who was identified as a father of four from Plymouth, has been paraded on Russian television in several clips, including one that aired last month with the headline: “Exclusive – before the execution.”
In the clip, he appeared to have been informed that he may face criminal charges, saying that he was being “detained here as a suspected mercenary”.
Hill, who is reported to have previously served in the Lancaster regiment of the British army, was first shown on Russian television after his capture in late April. In the video, the 35-year-old appeared to be severely injured, with his head bandaged and his left arm in a cast and supported by a sling.
“I want to go home, to my homeland, to my family, to my children,” he said in the recent clip, which appeared to have been filmed under duress. “I just want to go home. I will tell them the truth.”
The other man, Dylan Healy, is reported to have been working in Ukraine as a humanitarian aid volunteer.
Two more Britons and a Moroccan man were sentenced to death on identical charges by the authorities in Russian-controlled Donetsk.
A court in Russian-controlled east Ukraine on Thursday convicted 28-year-old Aiden Aslin, from Newark, 48-year-old Shaun Pinner, from Watford, and Saaudun Brahim on charges of “terrorism”. Observers said the process was intended to imitate the war crimes trials of Russian soldiers taking place in Kyiv.
Both Britons have said they were serving in the Ukrainian marines, making them active-duty soldiers who should be protected by the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war. However, Russian state media has portrayed them as mercenaries, and the court has convicted them on the charge of “being a mercenary”.
No date has been set for the sentences to be carried out, and at least two of the men are appealing against the verdict.