Britain says talking to Ukraine, not Russia, about jailed soldiers

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Britain is prioritizing talking to Ukraine rather than Russia on the situation of two jailed British men who have been sentenced by a court in one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Friday.

Foreign Minister Liz Truss raised the issue with her Ukrainian counterpart in a call on Friday, the spokesman said, after Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin were sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Asked if Britain would talk to Russia to secure their release, the spokesman said “we don’t have regular interaction with the Russians.”

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“Our priority is working with the Ukrainian government to try and ensure their release as quickly as possible,” the spokesman said.

“They’re afforded protection under the Geneva Convention as members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which is why we want to continue working with them closely to try and get them freed as quickly as we can.”

Aslin, Pinner and Saaudun Brahim, a third fighter from Morocco, were captured fighting with Ukrainian forces and sentenced by separatist authorities in the eastern Donetsk region for attempting to overthrow the government.

Ukraine said it was investigating the circumstances in which the three men were sentenced to death.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor Iryna Venediktova described the sentences as “a violation and mockery” of international law and said the men should be treated fairly under Geneva Conventions.

“Ukraine has already initiated a pre-trial investigation into this matter and will take all appropriate steps to ensure that everyone that was involved in this illegal action is held responsible for their actions,” she said in a statement.

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