Two more Britons face death penalty in eastern Ukraine

Two more Britons face death penalty in eastern Ukraine

Two more Britons held by Russian proxies in east Ukraine have been charged with fighting mercenaries, Russian state media has reported, indicating that they could face the death penalty in an attempt to pressure western countries to make a deal for their freedom.

Britons Andrew Hill of Plymouth and Dylan Healy from 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. The report was sourced from an anonymous official and has not been confirmed.

Two Britons and a Moroccan man were sentenced to death last month on identical charges by the authorities in Russian-controlled Donetsk. There is no date for the sentences to be carried out, and at least two of the men are appealing against the verdict.

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. He appeared to have been told by the BBC that he was being held in the Lancaster regiment of the British army and was first shown on Russian television after his capture in late April. 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 a clip that appeared to have been filmed under duress. Dylan Healy, a humanitarian aid volunteer, is reported to have been working in Ukraine. He and another British man, Paul Urey, were reported to have been arrested near Zaporizhzhia in south-eastern Ukraine while driving to help a woman and two children evacuate.

He was said to be working in Ukraine independently of any major aid organisation. A friend told ITV that he believed Healy had gone to Ukraine to try and make a difference. The men's backgrounds will likely have little influence on the outcome of a trial in the Donetsk People's Republic, a proxy government recognized only by Russia and Syria.

In the previous trial, all three men were convicted of fighting mercenaries despite serving as enlisted soldiers in the 36th Marine Brigade and being entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

The Russian government is planning to have a larger tribunal for Ukrainian soldiers captured at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.