A British volunteer aid worker who was taken prisoner by Russian forces in Ukraine has been charged with being a mercenary and will face the death penalty, Russian media has reported.
Dylan Healy, 22, was detained at a Russian military checkpoint in the Zaporizhzhia region in late April while evacuating a Ukrainian woman and two children from a battle zone.
On Friday, Russian media reported that he had been charged with being with a mercenary alongside Andrew Hill, a British military volunteer who was captured in the Mykolaiv region at around the same time.
Details of the accusations were reported by a news website linked to the pro-Kremlin Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, where the two men are being held.
The website said they would face the same mercenary charges as Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, two British military volunteers captured in Mariupol in April who were sentenced to death by a court in Donetsk.
Mr Healy was originally detained along with fellow aid volunteer Paul Urey, 45, with the pair accused of being spies.
Mr Urey appeared on Russian television in handcuffs on May 5 and made what appeared to be a scripted statement in which he called the British Government “corrupt”.
Ukrainian officials have already said they will seek to involve Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner in a prisoner swap in exchange for Russian prisoners held by Kyiv.
It is thought the death penalty passed on the detained Britons is intended mainly as a shock tactic to maximise their value as bargaining chips.
The verdicts could easily be overruled by Moscow, which has sway over the rulers of the Donetsk People’s Republic and has observed a moratorium on the death penalty since 1996.
That would allow the Kremlin to be seen to be exercising clemency, strengthening its hand in any prisoner swap talks.
Two ex-US servicemen, Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, are also in custody in the Donetsk People’s Republic after being captured during fighting near the north-eastern city of Kharkiv last month.
The family of Mr Drueke last week said his captors had contacted the US State Department to say that they wanted to begin negotiations for his release.