Pro-Russian separatists have sentenced foreign fighters to death. The British men had official status, says the governor of Luhansk – and refers to the Geneva Convention.

The two Britons sentenced to death by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are regular soldiers, according to Ukrainian sources.

“All the people who come to fight on the Ukrainian side sign documents with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which gives them official status,” Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Hajday told BBC Radio 4 on Friday. Therefore, if they are taken prisoner of war, they are subject to the Geneva Convention.” Therefore, they should not be sentenced to death, even if they are not Ukrainians, said Hajdaj.

Governor: Appealed

The governor said he was aware that the men’s lawyers had already appealed the unrecognized court’s ruling. “What is happening is only happening under political pressure from Russia,” said Hajdaj.

The two Britons, aged 28 and 48, surrendered to pro-Russian troops after weeks of fighting in the south-eastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol. According to media reports, they lived in Ukraine before the war and also married there. Together with a Moroccan, they were sentenced to death as mercenaries on Thursday. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke of a “false judgment without any legitimacy”. She wanted to discuss the procedure with her Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba at the earliest opportunity.