A court in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine on Monday sentenced two Ukrainian staff members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to 13 years in prison on treason charges, a move the regional security organization castigated as “inhumane and repugnant.”
The workers “have been held unjustifiably for more than five months in unknown conditions for nothing but pure political theater,” the O.S.C.E. chairman, Zbigniew Rau, who is also Poland’s foreign minister, said in a statement.
Helga Maria Schmid, the O.S.C.E. secretary general, called for the immediate release of the staff members, Dmytro Shabanov and Maxim Petrov, along with a third unnamed staff member she said had been detained. The O.S.C.E. said all three are Ukrainian nationals.
The O.S.C.E., which counts Ukraine and Russia among its 57 members, is a regional security organization that, among other things, promotes peace, human rights and arms control and helps monitor elections.
According to Tass, the Russian news agency, authorities in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, one of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia has recognized, accused Mr. Petrov of gathering information about the region’s military and passing it on to a senior U.S. official. The details of the allegations against Mr. Shabanov were not immediately clear.
Ms. Schmid said the two men had been performing official duties before they were detained in April; Mr. Petrov was a translator and Mr. Shabanov was a security assistant. “Our colleagues remain O.S.C.E. staff members and had been performing official duties as mandated by all 57 participating states,” she said.
In July, an O.S.C.E. report highlighted the growing international concern over reports of abuses involving Russia’s so-called filtration camps, including the eventual executions of some detainees. The report was released after a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken that said Russian authorities had “interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported” as many as 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, into distant Russian territory.
It is not the first time a court in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine has handed down a sentence that has attracted loud criticism. In June, two Britons and a Moroccan who had fought for the Ukrainian armed forces were sentenced to death by a court in the breakaway Donetsk region after being accused of being mercenaries.