July 27, 2022 News of Russia and Ukraine

The UK government has sanctioned British blogger Graham Phillips for his content that “destabilizes” Ukraine, according to the UK Foreign Office for the Commonwealth and Development. He was added to the UK sanctions list on Monday, according to the Foreign Office.

The UK Foreign Office said that Phillips “is a video blogger who creates and publishes media content that supports and promotes actions and policies that destabilize Ukraine and undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine.”

The UK government has frozen Phillips’ assets and, according to the UK government’s publicly available sanctions list, he is the only UK citizen to be sanctioned in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a video posted to YouTube April 19, Phillips questions British citizen Aiden Eslin, who fought for Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. On camera, Eslin says that he is not speaking under duress, but during the video he is handcuffed.

Youtube removed the video. At the time of writing, Google’s parent company has not provided CNN with a takedown notice for the video.

On 20 April this year, British MP Robert Jenrick, representing the British constituency of Eslyn, criticized Philip’s video of Eslyn in Parliament, calling it “a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions”.

“This treatment of prisoners of war is illegal and interviewer Graham Phillips faces prosecution for war crimes. And that any online platform like YouTube hosting this kind of propaganda videos should remove them immediately,” he said.

In the video, Phillips refers to Eslin as a “mercenary” rather than a prisoner of war.

In response, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of Aslin: “I understand that he served for some time in the Ukrainian forces, and his position was very different from that of a mercenary.”

Phillips previously worked as a correspondent for the state broadcaster RT in Ukraine, and his videos tend to reflect a pro-Russian perspective on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

More background: Responding to the UK government’s sanctions, Phillips said on Telegram on July 26: “It’s pretty similar to Kafka, as I didn’t have the opportunity to defend myself against the accusations against me that led to the punishment.”

“But there are no real charges against me that led to punishment, so I have nothing to defend myself against,” he added, “It’s just that the British government does not like my work.”

On Wednesday, Phillips said the sanctions resulted in the authorities “confiscating all my bank accounts without any legal proceedings,” he wrote on Telegram.

Later on Wednesday, Phillips revealed on Telegram that he had filed an appeal against the British government’s decision, adding: “So, after a day with a lawyer, I filed a formal 4-page appeal against the absolutely absurd, dangerous, ridiculous decision of the UK government to sanction me. And tomorrow we will return to work here in Donbass, as usual since 2014.”

As of this writing, Phillips has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

In a statement released by the British Foreign Office on June 11 following the capture of Aslin by Russian forces in Ukraine, Aslin’s family confirmed that he served as a contract marine in the 36th Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The statement added that he has been a resident of Ukraine for four years.

In a statement to the OSCE on 14 July, Deputy British Ambassador to the OSCE Deirdre Brown said of Eslyn and another Briton with whom he was captured: “Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin are members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and should be treated like prisoners of war. They are not mercenaries.”

After his capture, Russian-backed authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced Eslin to death for participating in the fighting as a “mercenary” along with another British man and a Moroccan citizen.

CNN has reached out to Luhansk People’s Republic authorities for an update on Aslyn’s status. At the time of writing, CNN has not received a response.