Britons, Morrocan sentenced to death over Ukraine as fighting escalating
By Stefan J. Bos
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured fighting with the Ukrainian army before being tried as mercenaries and sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court.
Their trial occurred in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine captured by Moscow-backed separatists.
Families of the two British men and Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, who was also sentenced to death, have expressed concern about their plight.
Brahim's father said his son was not a mercenary but a Ukrainian student when Russia launched its invasion. British officials also said that the Britons already lived in Ukraine and served in its armed forces for several years.
They were captured in April while defending the besieged city of Mariupol.
Robert Jenrick, a legislator for Newark, where Aslin's family lives, said the men were sentenced by a "kangaroo court" that breached the Geneva Conventions. “This really has been a fraudulent show trial. We should not give it any credibility whatsoever. There is no evidence to back up these charges. And now we have two British citizens being subjected potentially to the death penalty,” he said.
“They are not mercenaries. They are British citizens who chose to join the Ukrainian army for personal reasons before [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the legislator explained. He added: “They were captured by Russian forces in Mariupol and should be treated in accordance with international law.”
All men want to appeal their sentences, and Kyiv said it works for their release. The trial came as fighting escalated in the region. Ukrainian President Zelensky noted the fate of the strategic city of Severodonetsk could decide the future of the eastern Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and other areas.
Intense street fighting reportedly continued in Severodonetsk, a small industrial eastern city under heavy Russian artillery barrages, endangering troops on both sides.
A senior adviser to Zelensky said Ukrainian military casualties are now between 100 and 200 a day – the highest estimated total to have been made public.
Western energy sanctions appeared to have done little to end the fighting as a U.S. official admitted that Russia may be making more profit from energy now than it did before the war.
The European Union has pledged to reduce its dependency on Russian oil by 90 percent by the end of 2022. However, the 27-nation bloc buys about 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia and has not yet made similar commitments on Russian gas supplies.