Three Britons to stand trial as ‘mercenaries’ in Russia-backed court

The trio are reportedly refusing to co-operate with investigators.

02 August 2022

Three Britons accused of being mercenaries will stand trial in a Russian proxy court in eastern Ukraine.

John Harding, Cambridgeshire aid worker Dylan Healy, 22, and military volunteer Andrew Hill will be tried in the Moscow-backed Supreme Court of the Donetsk People’s Republic, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Tass reported all three men were refusing to co-operate with investigators. They will be tried alongside two other men from Croatia and Sweden as “foreign citizens accused of mercenarism”, a court representative told the agency.

Prosecutors allege all five men were members of the Azov battalion and other military units captured in Mariupol.

Tass also said 60-year-old Mr Harding had fought in Syria on the Kurdish side but had denied killing anyone.

It comes after a video shown on Russian television in April featured a man speaking with an English accent who appeared to give his name as Andrew Hill from Plymouth.

The Donetsk court last month sentenced British men Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death in what the Foreign Office considers “sham judgements”, with the European Court of Human Rights forced to intervene in the case.

The Strasbourg-based court indicated to Moscow that it should ensure the death penalty imposed on Mr Aslin, 28, originally from Newark in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, was not carried out.

Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the G20 summit in Hamburg
(Matt Cardy/PA)

The Foreign Office is understood to be actively investigating and is providing support to the men’s families.

A spokeswoman 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.”

Amnesty International UK last month criticised Moscow for “exploiting” the men’s capture.

The charity’s crisis response manager Kristyan Benedict said: “In exploiting their capture of Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill like this, Russia and its proxies in the Donetsk People’s Republic are already adding to a huge catalogue of war crimes they’re committing in this war.”

The Russian foreign ministry on Monday issued a list of 39 newly sanctioned individuals – including David Cameron, Sir Keir Starmer and BBC presenter Huw Edwards – it said are no longer allowed to enter the Russian Federation.

It said the action was in response to UK sanctions issued against Russian ministers, officials and members of influential families linked to the Kremlin following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

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