Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk charge two Britons as "foreign mercenaries"
CNN  — 

Pro-Russian investigators in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Friday said they have charged another two British citizens with being “mercenaries,” according to the Donetsk News Agency.

“An investigation is now underway against British mercenaries Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill. They are charged under the same articles as the three previously convicted mercenaries. An investigation is under way and charges have been brought,” the agency reported quoting an unnamed DPR official.

The DPR is a pro-Russian region in the east of Ukraine that is not recognized internationally.

The UK Foreign Office condemned the “exploitation” of prisoners for political purposes and said it has raised the issue with the Russian government.

“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,” a spokesperson added.

On June 9, Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, along with Moroccan national Brahim Saadoune, were sentenced to death after they were found guilty of being “mercenaries” for Ukraine by a court in DPR, Russian state media reported at the time.

DPR officials said the men were foreign fighters who had been apprehended by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in April. The Russian state news agency, RIA Novosti, said Pinner, Aslin and Saadoune will be shot by firing squad and that they have until July 9 to lodge an appeal.

Acting on her client’s behalf, Pinner’s lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, said on Friday that she will appeal for clemency and leniency on humanitarian grounds to stop the execution. But Tserkovnikova said she will not challenge the guilty verdict decided by the court.

“We will appeal to humanity, as the guilt of my client has been proven by the court in full. To say that the complaint will be based on any evidence of innocence, it is not necessary,” the Donetsk News Agency quoted Tserkovnikova as saying.

On Thursday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg granted “interim measures” to Pinner and Aslin, calling on the Russian Federation to ensure the death penalty is not carried out.

Interim measures are granted in relation to court proceedings when there is an “imminent risk of irrepairable harm,” according to the ECHR.

The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian Federation no longer complies with the instructions of the ECHR, and suggested the court make direct contact with the DPR.