Russia uses foreigners' trial to raise stakes on talks - Ukraine official

The two Britons and Moroccan were found guilty of "mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order" of the self-proclaimed DPR.

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after his talks with representatives of Arab League nations, in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2022.  (photo credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after his talks with representatives of Arab League nations, in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2022.
(photo credit: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Russia wants to use three foreigners who were captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death as "hostages" to put pressure on the West over peace negotiations, a senior Ukrainian official said on Friday.

Two Britons and a Moroccan received the death sentence on Thursday from a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), one of Russia's proxies in eastern Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

They were brought to trial after a Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison last month for killing an unarmed civilian in Ukraine.

Kyiv said Thursday's court ruling had no authority, that the fighters were members of the Ukrainian armed forces and that they were subject to Geneva Convention protections.

Vadym Denysenko, an Interior Ministry adviser, said on Friday Ukraine would coordinate its position on the sentences with Britain, the United States and the European Union.

 Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk along a street after a meeting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS) Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk along a street after a meeting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

"The trial of the foreigners raises the stakes in the Russian Federation's negotiation process. They are using them as hostages to put pressure on the world over the negotiation process," he told national television.

"The trial of the foreigners raises the stakes in the Russian Federation's negotiation process. They are using them as hostages to put pressure on the world over the negotiation process."

Vadym Denysenko

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia are frozen.

Russia has accused Ukraine of blocking talks, but Kyiv says Moscow is to blame.

In a separate negotiating process, Turkey is leading attempts to arrange safe passage for grain stuck in Ukrainian Black Sea ports blockaded by Russia.

Russia did not immediately comment on Denysenko's remarks.

The two Britons and Moroccan were found guilty of "mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order" of the self-proclaimed DPR.

"Hysterical" UK

Russia said on Friday that Britain should appeal to the authorities of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) - internationally recognized as part of Ukraine - over two British citizens sentenced to death on Thursday by a Donetsk court.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram that Britain's reaction to such cases was "often hysterical."

Russia describes the two Britons and one Moroccan, who had been captured serving with Ukrainian forces in east Ukraine, as "mercenaries." The British government says they are prisoners of war, entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention.

Russia is the only United Nations member state to recognize the DPR, much of it still controlled by Ukraine, as independent.