Pro-Russian forces accuse 5 Europeans of mercenary service: ‘The accused could face the death penalty’

Five Europeans accused of serving as mercenaries in the Ukrainian army are on trial by pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

British nationals John Harding, Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy, Sweden’s Matthias Gustafsson and Croatia’s Vjekoslav Prebeg denied the charges, according to Russian media.

It was reported that the accused could face the death penalty. Captured near the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, Harding, Gustafsson and Prebeg were charged with “attempting to seize power by force” and “participating in an armed conflict as mercenaries”.

According to the Russian news agency Ria-Novosti, Hill is charged only with “working as a mercenary” and Healy on charges of “assisting in the recruitment of mercenaries for Ukraine”.

The court stated that the trial of the 5 defendants in the Donetsk People’s Republic will not continue until October.

In early June, two British and a Moroccan were sentenced to death by Donetsk separatist forces for allegedly serving as mercenaries for Ukraine. The defendants appealed against the decision.

According to Ukrainians, Russia is trying to leverage foreign fighters to gain concessions from Ukraine or exchange them with Russian prisoners.

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