Pro-Russian fighters have sentenced to death

Alexander Mozhaev, a pro-Russian separatist whose photograph has appeared in numerous publications in recent days and who says he is not employed by the Russian state, stands with fellow separatists in the town of Slavyansk on April 20 Maxim Dondyuk

Pro-Russian rebels have sentenced to death two British fighters and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine. 

The death sentences on Thursday came from separatist authorities in the Donetsk region, which is part of the Donbass, as Moscow concentrates its firepower on the strategic industrial hub of Sievierodonetsk.

Rebels ordered the death penalty for Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saaudun Brahim after they were accused of acting as mercenaries for Kiev, Russian media reported.

Britain said it was “deeply concerned” by the sentences. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that “Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity.”

The two Britons surrendered in April in Mariupol, the southern port city that was captured by Russian troops after a weeks-long siege. They later appeared on Russian TV calling on Johnson to negotiate their release.

Brahim surrendered in March in the eastern town of Volnovakha.

During a trial that lasted three days, the men pleaded guilty to committing “actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the Donetsk People’s Republic”, Russian news agency Interfax said.

‘Fate of Donbass’

Western countries have provided weapons and aid for Ukraine since the February 24 attack, while a number of people from abroad have come to fight against Russian forces.

The fiercest fighting is now focused on Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region, where Ukrainian officials say their outgunned forces are still holding out amid street battles despite the city being mostly under Russian control.

The regional governor of Luhansk, also part of the Donbass, said Western artillery would quickly help secure a Ukrainian victory for the bombarded city.

“As soon as we have long-range artillery to be able to conduct duels with Russian artillery, our special forces can clean up the city in two to three days,” governor Sergiy Gaiday said.

In his evening address to the Ukrainian people on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said the battle for Sievierodonetsk was “probably one of the most difficult throughout this war.

“In many ways, the fate of our Donbass is being decided there.”

The city of Lysychansk, which is separated from Sievierodonetsk by a river, is still in Ukrainian hands but under fierce Russian bombardment.

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