Three British men to stand trial in Russia-backed separatist court accused of being mercenaries

2 August 2022, 20:42 | Updated: 2 August 2022, 21:03

Three British men are to stand trial in a Russian-backed court accused of being Ukrainian mercenaries
Three British men are to stand trial in a Russian-backed court accused of being Ukrainian mercenaries. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Three British men will stand trial accused of being "mercenaries" and allegedly fighting in a Russia-backed Ukrainian breakaway region.

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John Harding, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill will be put on trial in the Donetsk People's Republic, part of Ukraine that has received Russian backing.

The three men were allegedly fighting for the Azov Battalion for Ukraine against the Russian army and were captured in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

They will be tried alongside a Swedish man and a Croatian, according to the Russian news agency TASS. The men have reportedly refused to cooperate with investigators.

Mr Healy, 22, is an aid worker in Cambridgeshire, while Mr Hill is a volunteer. Russian prosecutors claim that Mr Harding fought in Syria for the Kurdish army, although he denies killing anyone.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Picture: Getty

It comes a month after two British men, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, were sentenced to death by firing squad in Donetsk. The UK's Foreign Office has called the sentences a "sham judgement".

The European Court of Human Rights has told the Russian government that it should ensure Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner, 48, are not executed.

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The Foreign Office said it is working with Ukraine to get the captives freed.

A spokeswoman said: "We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war and civilians for political purposes and have raised this with Russia. 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."

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Amnesty International has also condemned Russia for "exploiting" the men's capture.

Spokesman Kristyan Benedict said: "In exploiting their capture of Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill like this, Russia and its proxies in the Donetsk People's Republic are already adding to a huge catalogue of war crimes they're committing in this war."

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It comes after the Russian government issued a list of 39 people it had newly sanctioned, including David Cameron, Sir Keir Starmer and BBC presenter Huw Edwards.

Russia said the 39 people are no longer allowed to enter the country, in response to UK sanctions.