Saturday, June 25, 2022

PM condemns Russia’s ‘sham sentencing’ of Brits who face the death penalty

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Boris Johnson has condemned the “mock trial” of two Britons sentenced to death by Russian authorities for fighting in Ukraine, as the government comes under pressure to secure their release.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister was “appalled” by the convictions of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and vowed the Government would do “everything in its power” to reunite them with their families.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the sham sentencing to death of these men. There is absolutely no justification for this breach of the protections they are entitled to,” Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said.

They added: “[Mr Johnson] has been following the case closely and has asked ministers to do everything in their power to try to reunite them with their families as soon as possible.”

Foreign Minister Liz Truss spoke on the phone with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Friday about the verdict of a Plenipotentiary Court in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine.

After the call, she posted on social media: “The verdict against her is a egregious violation of the Geneva Convention. Britain continues to support Ukraine against Putin’s barbaric invasion.”

However, No. 10 declined to say whether Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, would be called to the Foreign Office on the matter or would make representations to the Kremlin.

“We have no regular contact with the Russians,” they added, stressing that the government’s priority is working with Ukrainian colleagues to “ensure their release as soon as possible.”

“As members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they enjoy protection under the Geneva Convention, which is why we want to continue working closely with them to try to free them as soon as possible.”

There are concerns at the Foreign Office that it would help Moscow make its case a bilateral matter between the UK and Russia, in its portrayal that the men are “mercenaries” and therefore not entitled to protection under international law .

Britain argues that Mr Aslin, 28, from Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, are members of the Ukrainian army and should therefore be treated as prisoners of war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declined to comment on the case on Friday, saying: “Currently they are governed by the laws of the Donetsk People’s Republic”.

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