A British aid worker detained by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and accused of “mercenary activities” has died, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
Paul Urey, who had been captured by the Russian army in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, is said to have died on Sunday at the age of 45 “due to illness and stress”.
Reports quote DPR mediator Daria Morozova, who wrote on her Telegram account: “British representatives even ignored the possibility of negotiating his return as part of the prisoner exchange procedure.
“Furthermore, they did not provide the necessary medical preparations through the Red Cross. Paul Urey received appropriate medical assistance but, given the diagnoses and the stress, he died on July 10.
Dominik Byrne, founder of the nonprofit Presidium Network, said Mr Urey had diabetes and there were concerns about his well-being.
The British government has expressed concern at reports of his death.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “These are clearly alarming reports and our thoughts are obviously with his family and friends.”
Mr Urey, from Warrington, and fellow Briton Dylan Healy, 22, were arrested by Vladimir Putin’s troops on April 25, according to the charity. Mr Byrne said the men worked as freelance humanitarian aid volunteers.
The two men were reportedly trying to evacuate a woman and two children from Dniprorudne, in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, when they were stopped at a checkpoint and detained.
They have been accused of being mercenaries, for which Moscow’s maximum penalty is the death penalty.
Ms Morozova wrote on Telegram: “Official representatives of the UK (including the Foreign Office, the Embassy of the Russian Federation and members of the British Parliament) have been informed of the capture of Paul Urey.
“Furthermore, at his request, the relevant information was transferred to foreign media. However, a reaction from the UK did not follow.
In May, footage emerged of an interview aired on Russian television in which Mr Urey – while handcuffed – said he had traveled to Ukraine to “see if the refugee crisis was really as worse than what they say on the news” in Britain.
He is heard saying he took pictures of a blown up bridge “to show proof that the media in England are lying”.
Mr Urey says he has previously visited Iraq and Afghanistan between 2008 and 2010, as well as Libya to “help the revolution”.
After seeing the interview, his mother Linda said she believed he was speaking under duress.
She said in a statement: “I watched the interview on Russian TV with my son Paul Urey.
“He’s physically my son, but he doesn’t act natural; his words are too factual and his facial expressions make me not believe what he says. Normally, he speaks fast and straight to the point.
“I know my son like all mothers, and it’s not him who is natural.”