Ukraine: Russia-backed separatists lift death penalty moratorium | Russia-Ukraine war News

Move by self-appointed officials in Donetsk ‘people’s republic’ comes as three foreign fighters await their fate.

Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, according to Russian state-news agency RIA Novosti.

Friday’s move by officials in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DPR) came the three foreign prisoners-of-war awaited their fate in the statelet, having been sentenced to death a month ago in a ruling that was not recognized as legitimate by the international community.

The two British nationals and a Moroccan man, who fought for Ukraine, have been accused of being “mercenaries” in Moscow. Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun were charged with violating four articles of the DPR’s legal code, including an attempt to “seize power” and “training in order to conduct terrorist activity”.

“In view of the need to protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the current military-political situation, the draft law proposes to recognize part 9 of article 202 of the Criminal Code as invalid,” Elena Shishkina, chairman of the People’s Council Committee on Criminal and Administrative Legislation, said on Friday.

Donetsk has been a breakaway region of eastern Ukraine since 2014 – and the center of tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia threw its support behind separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk after annexing Crimea eight years ago.

The “Supreme Court” of the DPR sentenced the three foreign fighters, who were captured while battling for the Ukrainian army against Russian forces.

The death sentence fueled calls to free the war prisoners.

“They are prisoners of war,” Amnesty International Ukraine Director Oksana Pokalchuk told Al Jazeera, adding, “It’s very important that no one who has a status of prisoner of war can be killed.”

“Prisoners of war must receive proper medical support and his or her basic needs to be covered. That’s the basic requirements from international humanitarian law that are very clearly mentioned in the Geneva Conventions.”

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the United Kingdom’s government was “deeply concerned” by the death sentences and will work to try to secure the release of British citizens.

DPR and its authorities are not recognized by Ukraine or most other foreign governments. However, Russia recognized DPR and Luhansk’s People Republic (LPR) independence on February 22, two days before the war began.

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