Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said the death sentences imposed on two Britons in Ukraine are “a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention”.
Truss said she had spoken with her Ukrainian counterpart to “discuss efforts to ensure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies”.
“UK continues to support Ukraine against Putin’s barbaric invasion,” she tweeted.
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Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been accused of mercenaries after they were captured in Mariupol in April during the intense battle for control of the port city and later appeared in court in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be “appalled” by the sentences imposed on them and has ordered ministers to “do everything in their power” to secure their release.
A spokesman for No. 10 said: “The Prime Minister was shocked by the sentencing of these men. He has been following the case closely and has asked ministers to make every effort to try to reunite them with their families as soon as possible.
“We completely condemn the sham sentence of these men to death. There is no justification whatsoever for this violation of the protection to which they are entitled.”
When asked whether the British government would talk to Russia to secure their release, the spokesman said “we do not have regular interaction with the Russians”.
They said the “priority” was to work with the Ukrainian government “to try to secure their release as soon as possible”.
“They are protected under the Geneva Convention as members of the Ukrainian armed forces, so we want to continue to work closely with them to try to get them released as soon as possible.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declined to comment on the cases, saying they fall under the jurisdiction of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Lavrov said at a press conference: “Currently, they are guided by the laws of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
“Since these crimes were committed on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the rest is speculation.
“I will not comment on the judiciary of the Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Earlier on Friday, Secretary of State Robin Walker said the government would use “all diplomatic channels” to raise the two Britons’ cases.
He told Sky News: “As the Foreign Secretary has made clear, we will give them and their families all the support we can.
“We have been absolutely clear all along that these people should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, there is no basis on which they can be tried.
“This is an illegal court in a sham government that has held this trial and of course we do not recognize that it has any authority, but we will continue to use all diplomatic channels to claim that these are prisoners of war who should be treated accordingly.”
He added: “We strongly condemn the approach taken here and we will use every available method to address this issue.”
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