The European Court of Human Rights issues said on Thursday it had issued interim measures to instruct Russia to ensure the death penalty on two Britons who were captured after fighting for Ukraine was not carried out.
“The Court indicated in particular to the government of the Russian Federation, under Rule 39 (interim measures) of the Rules of Court, that they should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out,” the court said in a statement.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were guilty of taking action towards violent seizure found of power at a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) earlier this month.
A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted alongside them.
The men were accused of being “mercenaries” after fighting with troops, a charge that carries the death penalty in the unrecognized Ukrainian territory.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said their sentences would set a “clear example to other soldiers of fortune fighting for Ukraine.”
Mr Aslin, originally from Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner, from Watford, are both residents of Ukraine and had been serving in the country’s armed forces for several years prior to the Russian invasion, according to their families and lawyers.
Friends said Mr Brahim, a 21-year-old originally from Casablanca, was an aerospace technology student at a university in Kyiv who joined the Ukrainian military last summer when he told them he wanted to “die as a hero”.
The UK has described the proceedings as “a sham”. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday that the best route to secure the men’s release was “through the Ukrainians”, but she added that she would do “whatever it takes”.
The British men’s families deny that the two, who were contracted to the Ukrainian armed forces, were mercenaries.
Britain has so far publicly declined to raise the issue with authorities in the DPR, whose independence is recognized only by Russia, instead saying it hoped Kyiv could secure the men’s release.
Mr Aslin’s family previously said in the statement: “We, the family of Aiden Aslin, wish to ask for privacy at this time from the media.
“This is a very sensitive and emotional time for our family, and we would like to say thank you to all that have supported us.
“We are currently working with the Ukrainian government and the Foreign Office to try and bring Aiden home. Aiden is a much-loved man and very much missed, and we hope that he will be released very soon.”