Two Britons captured by Russian forces could face 20 years in prison, according to Russian state-run media on Wednesday.
The report also quoted prosecutors saying they may face the death penalty.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, both serving in the Ukrainian armed forces, were captured in April after their unit had to surrender following 48 days of defending Mariupol, as they were “running out of ammunition.”
The pair were later paraded on Russian state TV before reportedly appearing in court in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
In footage shared by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on social media on Wednesday that showed Aslin, Pinner, and Moroccan national Saadoun Brahim, who was also captured in April, sitting in a courtroom cage with white bars, a translator can be heard asking Aslin if he would “plead guilty” to an offence, to which he replies, “Yes.”
Radio Sputnik said the trio pleaded guilty under Article 232 of the Criminal Code of the DPR, “training in order to carry out terrorist activities.”
The charge carries a term of 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment with restriction of freedom for one to two years, or life imprisonment, according to RIA Novosti.
The report also said Pinner and Brahim pleaded guilty to actions aimed at seizing power, which could mean the death penalty in wartime or in the presence of aggravating circumstances.
It also said Pinner and Brahim pleaded not guilty to “participation of a mercenary in an armed conflict or hostilities.”
The video shared by RIA appears to show Aslin pleading guilty to a lesser charge involving weapons and explosives.
The news agency also quoted prosecutors as saying the combined charges could mean the death penalty for all three.
‘Trumped up Charges’
Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) condemned what it said was “the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes.”
A spokesperson said the FCDO was “working with the government of Ukraine on the detention of British nationals,” who are “entitled to combatant immunity and should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.”
The FCDO previously confirmed that both Aslin and Pinner were in the Ukrainian armed forces, and therefore should not be treated as mercenaries.
According to their families, Aslin and Pinner moved to Ukraine in 2018 and joined the Ukrainian military long before the recent Russian invasion of the country. They are both married to Ukrainian wives, and Aslin also holds Ukrainian citizenship.
After the pair were captured, they appeared on Russian state TV, asking British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help exchange them with Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was arrested by the Ukrainian secret services on April 12.
Aslin’s local MP, former housing minister Robert Jenrick, said on Wednesday that Aslin should be returned home at the earliest opportunity, possibly through a prisoner exchange.
The MP condemned the “trumped-up charges” faced by both Britons and accused Russia of a “completely outrageous breach of international law.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s “World At One” programme, Jenrick said: “This is a British citizen, but who also holds Ukrainian nationality, is married to a Ukrainian, joined the Ukrainian armed forces in the normal way prior to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion, and has been serving in the armed forces.
“He was taken prisoner by Russian forces and in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention, he should be being held appropriately and returned to Ukraine at the earliest possible opportunity, possibly through a prisoner exchange,” he said, adding that it’s a “completely outrageous breach of international law” that the Russians tried Aslin and Pinner “on trumped up charges [with] no evidence whatsoever.”
PA Media and Reuters contributed to this report.