Three Britons to stand trial as ‘mercenaries’ in Russia-backed court

Three Britons accused of being mercenaries are being tried in a Russian Magisterial Court in eastern Ukraine.

John Harding, Cambridgeshire development worker Dylan Healy, 22, and military volunteer Andrew Hill are on trial before the Moscow-backed Supreme Court of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.

Tass reported that all three men refused to cooperate with investigators. They will be tried along with two other men from Croatia and Sweden as “foreign citizens accused of mercenary activity,” a court official for the agency said.

Prosecutors allege that all five men were members of the Azov battalion and other military units captured in Mariupol.

Tass also said Mr Harding, 60, fought on the Kurdish side in Syria but denied killing anyone.

It comes after a video aired on Russian TV in April showed an English-accented man who appeared to give his name as Andrew Hill, from Plymouth.

The Donetsk court last month sentenced British men Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death in Foreign Office “sham” sentences, with the European Court of Human Rights being forced to intervene in the case.

The Strasbourg-based court told Moscow it should ensure that the death sentences imposed on Mr Aslin, 28, originally from Newark in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, are not carried out.

The Federal Foreign Office is actively investigating and supporting the men’s families.

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

“We are in constant contact with the Ukrainian government regarding their cases and fully support Ukraine in their efforts to release them.”

Amnesty International UK last month criticized Moscow for “exploiting” the men’s capture.

The charity’s crisis response manager, Kristyan Benedict, said: “By exploiting the capture of Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill in this way, Russia and its proxies in the Donetsk People’s Republic are already contributing to a vast catalog of war crimes they are committing in this war . ”

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a list of 39 newly sanctioned people – including David Cameron, Sir Keir Starmer and BBC presenter Huw Edwards – who are no longer allowed to enter the Russian Federation.

The action was in response to British sanctions against Russian ministers, officials and members of influential families with ties to the Kremlin following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Three Britons to stand trial as ‘mercenaries’ in Russia-backed court

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