Two British men have been captured by Vladimir Putin’s troops in Ukraine and charged with being mercenaries, according to reports in Russia.
Aid worker Dylan Healy, 22, and military volunteer Andrew Hill have been charged with carrying out “mercenary activities”.
Officials in the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said the men were refusing to co-operate with investigators, according to the Tass news agency.
It comes after a video shown on Russian television in April featured a man speaking with an English accent who gave his name as Andrew Hill from Plymouth.
A DPR source told Tass: “Criminal cases have been initiated and charges were presented for mercenarism against British citizens Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, currently in detention in DPR.
“Investigation operations are under way as the investigators look for evidence of the crimes, committed by the British, because they do not want to testify and refuse to co-operate on their criminal cases.”
Healy’s friend, Allan Moore, said: “It’s just madness, to be honest. He is definitely not a mercenary. He was just volunteering.”
The Red Cross and the UK Government have reportedly been in touch with Healy and those who have been holding him.
A pro-Kremlin website said Healy and Hill would face the same mercenary charges as Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, two British military volunteers captured in Mariupol who have been condemned to death in Donetsk.The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday intervened in the case of Aslin and Pinner.
The court told Moscow it should ensure the death penalty imposed on Aslin, 28, originally from Newark in Nottingham-shire, and Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, was not carried out.
The UK Government on Wednesday announced it was imposing sanctions on Russia’s second-richest man Vladimir Potanin and Russian President Putin’s cousin Anna Tsivileva.
Potanin is the owner of the Interross conglomerate while Tsivileva is president of the JSC Kolmar Group coal-mining company.
A Government statement said Potanin has continued to amass wealth while backing the Russian leader’s regime, acquiring Rosbank and shares in Tinkoff Bankonith in the period following the invasion of Ukraine.
Tsivileva’s husband, Sergey Tsivilev, is governor of the coal-rich Kemerovo region and the couple are said to have “significantly benefited” from their relationship with the Russian leader.
Last week the UK Government said it was also sanctioning a group of Russian individuals and companies for involvement in repressing civilians and supporting Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. It said: “As long as Putin continues his abhorrent assault on Ukraine, we will use sanctions to weaken the Russian war machine.
“Today’s sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin’s inner circle.”
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war and civilians 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.”
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