Ukraine war: Three Britons plead not guilty to mercenary charges in Russian-backed separatist court | World News

Three Britons have pleaded not guilty to mercenary charges at a Russian-backed separatist court in Ukraine.

John Harding, Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy, were among a group of five European men to be tried at a court run by Kremlin-backed separatists in the city of Donetsk.

Mr Harding, Croatian Vjekoslav Prebeg and Swedish citizen Mathias Gustafsson, who were arrested in and around the port city of Mariupol, could face the death penalty under the law of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

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Russia’s state news agency TASS reported that all five men pleaded not guilty to mercenary charges and were “being trained to seize power by force”.

The Interfax news agency reported that the next trial in their case is scheduled for October, citing a statement from the separatist court.

Healy, 22, who was in Ukraine as an aid worker was arrested at a checkpoint in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia in April with his colleague. Paul Urey British nationality. Mr. Hill, an army volunteer, was also captured by Russian troops in April.

However, Mr. Harding had been fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since 2018 before his arrest.

Originally from Sunderland, Mr Harding call for help from Boris Johnson months ago after being told he could be sentenced to death.

John Harding faces the death penalty if convicted

In June, Donetsk government sentences two Britons to deathAiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, and Saaudun Brahim, Moroccan nationals, are accused of being mercenaries.

They were all captured by the Russians while fighting in Ukraine and all three have appealed their ruling.

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Ukrainian social media speculated that the Kremlin might seek to use foreign fighters to get concessions from Ukraine or swap them for Russian prisoners.

Foreign governments have refused to negotiate with the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of two Russian-backed entities that have controlled parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since 2014, citing internationally recognized claim to be part of Ukraine.

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