By Alexander Ermochenko and Kazbek Basayev
DONETSK, Ukraine – The lawyer defending one of two Britons sentenced to death in a Russian-backed breakaway territory of Ukraine said on Friday that they had not yet submitted an appeal because they seemed to be holding out for intervention from London.
A court in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, which is armed and financed by Russia, found Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun guilty on June 9 of “mercenary activities” and attempting to “overthrow the constitutional order of the DPR”.
Russia’s TASS news agency on Thursday quoted Pinner’s lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, as saying the defence attorneys were preparing an appeal, which must be lodged by July 8.
But Pavel Kosovan, defending Aslin, told Reuters in an interview that the appeals had not yet been filed “because I suspect they hope that the British authorities will still contact either the Russian Federation or the Donetsk People’s Republic”.
The men’s families deny that the trio, who were contracted to the Ukrainian armed forces, were mercenaries.
Britain has so far declined publicly to raise the issue with authorities in the DPR, whose independence is recognised only by Russia, instead saying it hoped Kyiv could secure the men’s release.
Russia’s ambassador has said Britain has asked for Moscow’s help – but Moscow has said Britain must approach the DPR.
Britain also says the men should be treated as regular prisoners of war subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and therefore exempt from capital punishment.
Kosovan said Aslin had pleased guilty, repented, and cooperated with investigators.
“He recognised his guilt in full,” the lawyer said.
“In court he openly expressed his regret. He supported the investigation in establishing the circumstances of events.”
Aslin’s family told the BBC on Thursday that they had spoken to him in a phone call in which he said his captors had told him that “time is running out”.