Ukraine: 5 Europeans risk the death penalty, accused by pro-Russians of being mercenaries


Prisoners of war facing the death penalty, division within the European Union on the issue of Russian tourist visas, new initiatives to raise funds for Ukraine: after six months of conflict, an update on the situation in Ukraine.

In the Donbass, people risk death even in court.

The trial of five Europeans captured in eastern Ukraine began on Monday, before the self-proclaimed "Supreme Court" of the pro-Russian separatist region of Donetsk. These "mercenaries" risk the death penalty

Originally from Sweden, Croatia and the United Kingdom, the five men are accused of being mercenaries and of fighting for the Ukrainian army. If convicted, they face the death penalty.

A moratorium on the death penalty has been in place in Russia since 1997, but this is not the case in the two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.

The pro-Russian authorities deny them the status of prisoners of war, depriving them of the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

On the first day of the hearing, the five defendants pleaded "not guilty". The court subsequently postponed the trial, indicating that it would not resume until October, without giving any explanation as to the reasons for this delay. 

In June, two Britons and a Moroccan, also taken prisoner in Ukraine by pro-Russian forces, were sentenced to death on the same charge. They have appealed this decision.

On another front, the European Union (EU) appears divided on the issue of Russian tourism.

While EU airspace has been closed to Russian flights since the beginning of the conflict, tourists can still travel to Europe by land and then travel within the Schengen area.

Ukraine, supported by Finland and the Baltic states, has called on EU countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens.

The issue will be discussed at the end of August in Brussels, but for the moment, opinions differ.

At a meeting with leaders of Nordic countries in Oslo on Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke out against visa restrictions on ordinary Russian citizens, who may be opposed to Putin's "war."

Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, reaffirmed her desire to restrict access to the Schengen area for Russian tourists as soon as possible.

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed American actor Liev Schreiber and former footballer Andriy Shevchenko. 

He had already received the visit of Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Angelina Jolie or more recently Jessica Chastain, to alert public opinion on the situation in his country. 

The American actor and the former Ukrainian striker are ambassadors of the United24 website, launched in May at the initiative of the Ukrainian leader. This platform collects donations internationally to support the country. To date, it has raised nearly 170 million dollars.

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