BAKHMUT (Ukraine) -- Ukraine and the West condemned a pro-Moscow tribunal that sentenced two British citizens to death and one Moroccan for fighting for Ukraine. They called the proceedings a shame and a violation the rules of war.
While the Kremlin's forces were fighting a war of attrition in eastern Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to compare his actions to Peter the Great's in the 18th Century. He said that the country must "take back" historical Russian lands.
Three fighters were found guilty by the court in Ukraine's self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic of trying to overthrow the power. This offense is punishable with death in the unrecognized eastern republic. They were also found guilty of mercenary and terrorist activities.
Russian state news agency RIA Novati reported that three defendants, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, will be facing a firing squad. They have one month to appeal.
Separatists argued that they were "mercenaries" and not entitled to the protections given prisoners of war. These are the first foreign fighters to be sentenced by Ukraine's Russian-backed rebels.
Oleh Nikolenko, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, condemned the proceedings, saying that "such show trials put propaganda above the law, and morality." He also stated that any foreign citizen fighting in Ukraine's armed forces must be treated as Ukrainian military personnel and should be protected as such.
Luz Truss, British Foreign Secretary, declared the sentencing "a sham judgment with absolutely zero legitimacy." Jamie Davies, Prime Minister of Boris Johnson, stated that POWs have immunity under the Geneva Conventions and are eligible for combatant immunity.
Taher Saadoun Saadoun, Saadoun’s father, stated to the Moroccan online Arab-language newspaper Madar 21 his son is not a soldier and that he has Ukrainian citizenship.
Pinner and Aslin's families claim that both men served in the Ukrainian military for a long time. Both men are believed to have been living in Ukraine since 2018.
These men fought alongside Ukrainian troops in the south port of Mariupol, where Pinner and Aslin surrendered in mid April to pro-Russian forces. Saadoun was captured mid-March in the eastern town of Volnovakha.
Andrew Hill, another British fighter, was taken prisoner by pro-Russian forces and is currently awaiting trial.
Russian military argues that foreign mercenaries fighting for Ukraine's side do not constitute combatants. If captured, they should be prepared to spend long prison sentences.
Putin made parallels between Peter the Great’s founding of St. Petersburg, and the ambitions of modern-day Russia.
The new capital was founded by the czar. "No European country recognized it to be Russia," Putin said. Putin stated that everyone recognized it as Sweden. Putin added, "What was Peter doing?" Reforcing and taking back. He did exactly that. It seems that it was up to us to reinforce and take back the initiative."
It's impossible. Do you get it? It is impossible to build a fence around Russia. "We don't intend to build that fence," said the Russian leader.
According to Macron's office, Emmanuel Macron, the French President, told Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, that France was willing to send more "heavy arms" to Ukraine. French officials didn't elaborate on the weaponry. After Macron insulted Ukrainian officials and said that world powers shouldn't "humiliate Putin", the phone conversation was initiated by Macron.
Zelenskyy stated that the Ukrainian army was continuing to push back Russian forces from Kharkiv (the country's second largest city), which is to the north of Donbas. After a tower that was used for transmission was destroyed, the transmission of Ukrainian television was restored.
He said in his late Thursday evening address that "hitting television centers, destroying communication networks, leaving people isolated – this is the tactic that the occupiers cannot do without, since openness and honesty are also weapons against all that Russia does."
In the city of Sievierodonetsk, fierce fighting continued in a battle that could decide the fate of Donbas, Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland. Moscow-backed separatists held large swathes of Donbas before the invasion and Russian troops have gained even more.
Kharkiv residents reported that there were cruise missile strikes against the northeastern city. One struck a supermarket. One hit a supermarket. We don't have any details.
According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian troops are trying again to seize the entire Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine's southeast. Kyiv still holds the northern region, which includes Zaporizhzhia.
-- Thirteen civilians were killed in Ukrainian shelling of the separatist-controlled city of Stakhanov in the Donbas, a pro-Russian separatist envoy said on social media. The claim could not be verified immediately.
Russia claimed that it used missiles against a Zhytomyr capital, where it claimed mercenaries were being trained. The Ukrainian authorities did not respond.
Karmanau reported from Lviv in Ukraine.
Follow AP's coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine