Three British ‘mercenaries’ that have been captured in Ukraine have been told they could be executed despite there being no precedent in the law for it.
The pro-Putin leader of the puppet regime in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic has warned Aiden Aslin, 28, Shaun Pinner, 48, and Andrew Hill, 35 that they could be executed for 'committing monstrous crimes'.
Denis Pushilin spoke as the trial opened for the surrendered men who had fought alongside Ukrainian defenders before they were forced to wave the white flag.
The British volunteer fighters are charged with commission of crimes by a group of persons, forcible seizure of power or forcible retention of power, and mercenary activities.
The maximum penalty is execution – believed to be by gun shot – if convicted of “combat operations” in “wartime” against the pro-Putin region, said a local law enforcement official.
The talk of the death penalty is all the more abhorrent as neither Russia nor Ukraine, on the territory of which the DPR stands, permit executions.
Pushilin’s statement, shown on Russian state TV, may be seen as tantamount to a political demand for a death sentence after alleging “the crimes whey committed” were “monstrous”.
Nor did he challenge a comment by presenter Olga Skebeyeva – dubbed Putin’s ‘Iron Doll’ – who branded them ‘war criminals’ before their trial was properly underway.
He said: "Today is the first hearing of the Supreme Court of the Donetsk People's Republic in connection with the British mercenaries.
“The evidence base has been fully assembled. The crimes they committed are monstrous.
“And I can say that according to the articles they were charged with, I would not rule out the death penalty.
“But the decision will be made by the court.”
Skebeyeva also demanded that the detainees should not be sent home, arguing: "What will happen to the war criminals?
“People want details, want to know what's next? Won't they let them go, send them home? People want justice in the first place.”
Russian army in such a shambles that they're facing battle with soggy toilet paper
The combined comments appear to make a mockery of any hopes of them receiving a fair trial in the Donetsk statelet.
All three have even been paraded for the cameras in violation of the Geneva Convention.
However, Russia and the DPR authorities say the convention does not apply to them as ‘mercenaries’.
The case against Pinner and Hill was completed before the authorities said at the weekend that they had finalised the case against Aslin.
Moroccan subject Sadun Brahim is also facing trial.
Pinner and former care worker Aslin served in Ukraine's 36th Marine Brigade, along with Brahim.
Pinner and Aslin were captured in Mariupol in mid-April and father of four Hill was held in Mykolaiv in late April.
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