The Foreign Office has condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war after two Britons held by Kremlin forces in eastern Ukraine were charged with “exploitative activities”.
Dylan Healy, 22, and Andrew Hill, 35, were both was reportedly arrested in April.
Mr Healy, from Cambridgeshire, was in Ukraine as an aid worker for the British non-profit organization Presidium Network when he was caught at a checkpoint south of the city of Zaporozhye.
He was taken alongside another British national, Paul Urie, 45, who was described as a family man with children.
Mr Ure was not mentioned in the statement of allegations against Mr Hill and Mr Hill, and no known charges have been laid.
Mr Hill, a military volunteer, was pictured with his left arm bandaged and wearing a homemade head wrap in footage shown on Russian television in April.
The TASS news agency now reports that officials in the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have been charged, and both Mr Healy and Mr Hill are said to have refused to cooperate.
“Criminal proceedings have been launched and charges have been brought against British nationals Dylan Hill and Andrew Hill, who are currently in custody in the DPRK.
“Investigative operations are underway as investigators seek evidence of crimes committed by Britons as they refuse to testify and refuse to cooperate with their criminal cases.”
However, the Presidium Network, which has been helping Mr Hill’s family since April, said the allegations were “politically motivated” and “fabricated” by the DPRK.
A friend of Mr Healy’s, Allan Moore, said he had spoken to the paramedic’s mother, who was giving “guidance” on who to speak to.
Mr Moore told Sky News: “Honestly, it’s just crazy. He’s definitely not a mercenary. He just volunteered.”
The Red Cross and the British government have been in contact with Mr Healy and those holding him, Sky News understands.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war and civilians for political purposes and have spoken about it with Russia.
“We are in constant contact with the Ukrainian government regarding their case and fully support Ukraine in its efforts to release them.”
The Presidium Network said it has “been made aware of unverified mercenary allegations against Dylan Healy that have been leveled by Russian state media.”
The organization said it had provided evidence showing Mr Healy was an “independent humanitarian volunteer” in Ukraine at the time of his capture and was not affiliated with any military or paramilitary unit.
“He never took part in any military operation,” the message says.
“The accusations made by the DPRK are not supported by evidence and therefore can only be explained as a politically motivated action by the DPRK and the Russian government.
“We condemn the DPRK’s accusations for political gain and distortion of Dylan’s role in Ukraine.”
According to one pro-Kremlin website, Mr Healy and Mr Healy will face the same mercenary charges as British military volunteers Aiden Aslin and Sean Pinner.
Aslin, 28, was from Newark, Nottinghamshire, and Pinner, 48, was from Bedfordshire. was sentenced to death in June in the DRC court.
But on Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) intervened in their cases, warning Moscow that it must ensure that the death penalty is not carried out.
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Russia is using these people as a bargaining chip to legitimize the breakaway region
By Michael Clarke, Security and Defense Analyst
There is no evidence that they did anything other than what they say they did… So these are political hostages.
This is an illegal breakaway republic that no one in the world recognizes.
The rule of law is neither here nor there, it does not exist anywhere in the world, and the Russians are the only country that recognizes the DRC.
They have the death penalty, so handing these people over to the fake DPRK authorities is a way of threatening to kill these people.
The Russians have the death penalty, but they have had a moratorium since 1996, so the Russians can say: “Well, as a show of mercy, we’ll get them out of there and try them in Russia, and at least they won’t be put to death.”
So the Russians are using this as a psychological trap to continue the twist, hoping that they can have some influence over Western countries.
And what they want is for Western countries, in this case Britain, to engage in direct negotiations with the DPRK, giving it some respect. This is the bargaining tactic it’s all a part of.
Ukraine. Russian forces arrested two Britons accused of “profiteering activities” | UK news
Source Ukraine. Russian forces arrested two Britons accused of “profiteering activities” | UK news