Three Britons on trial in Donetsk as mercenaries

Three Britons on trial in Donetsk as mercenaries

Two Britons and a Moroccan are on trial in a court in Donetsk as mercenaries.

Three foreigners who fought for Ukrainian forces pleaded guilty to a number of charges in a Donetsk court on Wednesday. British nationals Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin and Moroccan citizen Ibrahim Saadoun are facing a series of charges that include the possibility of the death penalty after being captured by Donetsk People's Republic DPR forces in and around the city of Mariupol.

The DPR, recognized by Russia in February, claims sovereignty over the former Ukrainian provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk. Kiev still regards the land as part of its territory.

Aslin, Pinner, and Saadoun issued guilty pleas under Article 232 of the DPR Code for undergoing training for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities. Pinner also admitted to the article 323 charge of seizing power by force. All three of them said they were not guilty of being mercenaries in an armed conflict Article 430 or participating in a conspiracy Article 34 proceedings against them at the Supreme Court of the Donetsk People's Republic DPR began on Monday.

The DPR accuses Ukraine of military aggression against the breakaway state, which declared independence in 2014 after the US backed coup in Kiev. Both Britons said they had fought on the Ukrainian side since 2018.

The DPR has a penalty of 12 -- 20 years behind bars, but it can be escalated to capital punishment due to wartime aggravating circumstances. A prison sentence of three to seven years is punishable as a mercenary.

Pinner and Aslin were captured in Mariupol in April, as Russian and DPR troops cut off a brigade of Ukrainian marines to which they were attached. Neo-Nazi Azov militants held out at an industrial complex of the Black Sea port city for another month before surrendering on May 20.

London has demanded that Aslin and Pinner be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The DPR has pointed out that the conventions only apply to uniformed soldiers of a national military, not foreign mercenaries.