European court tells Russia to ensure two Britons do not face death penalty

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A still image, taken from footage of the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, shows Britons Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun captured by Russian forces during a military conflict in Ukraine, in a courtroom cage at a location given as Donetsk, Ukraine, in a still image from a video released June 8, 2022. Video taken June 8, 2022. Supreme Court of Donetsk People's Republic/Handout via REUTERS

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LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said on Thursday it had issued an order to Russia to ensure that two Britons captured after fighting for Ukraine do not face the death penalty.

Earlier this month, a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine sentenced British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death, accusing them of "mercenary activities". read more

The ECHR said it had issued an order for interim measures, telling Russia it "should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out; ensure appropriate conditions of their detention; and provide them with any necessary medical assistance and medication".

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Russia, whose parliament passed legislation this month to remove it from the jurisdiction of Europe's top human rights court, said it was not bound by the order.

"Russia no longer complies with the prescriptions of the EHCR, that's all there is to say," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He said "the fate of these mercenaries" was a matter for the DPR leadership.

The families of the two British men, who were contracted to the Ukrainian armed forces, deny that they were mercenaries.

The ECHR said the Britons had joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2018 and had been deployed to the city of Mariupol where Ukrainian soldiers in their brigade surrendered to the Russian forces in April.

Russia's ambassador has said Britain has asked for Moscow's help, but it has told Britain to approach the DPR.

Britain has so far declined publicly to raise the issue with authorities in the DPR, whose independence is recognised only by Russia and Syria.

"We are doing everything we can to support the men and are in close contact with and helping their families," a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

"We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and have raised this with Russia. We are in constant contact with the Government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released."

Earlier this month, British ministers criticised the same court for issuing interim measures which blocked the first planned deportation flight of illegal immigrants from Britain to Rwanda. The government later brought forward a bill which would give it the power to ignore ECHR rulings.

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Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by William James, Angus MacSwan and Tomasz Janowski

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