Russia has indicated it would be willing to consider an appeal from the UK over the fate of two Britons on death row in a part of Ukraine controlled by pro-Kremin forces.
A Kremlin spokesman said Moscow would be willing to listen to London regarding the cases of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner being sentenced to death for fighting Russian forces in Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov said neither Moscow nor the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who handed down the sentence had heard from London about the matter.
“You have to go to the authorities of the country whose court issued the verdict, and it’s not the Russian Federation,” Peskov said in comments carried by The Associated Press.
“But, of course, everything will depend on the calls from London. And I’m sure the Russian side will be ready to listen.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, among suggestions that a prisoner exchange could be negotiated.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Tuesday: “I will do whatever is necessary to secure their release.
“I have assured the families that I will do what is most effective in securing their release and I will not address our strategy live.”
It comes as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said additional artillery support to Ukraine would be discussed by members on Wednesday.
Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters in The Hague: “Ukraine should have more heavy weapons. And NATO allies and partners have been supplying heavy weapons for a long time, but they are also stepping up.
He added that the issue will be discussed in Brussels on Wednesday at NATO’s Ukraine Support Contact Group headquarters, saying: “(Ukrainians) need to be prepared for the long term, because there is no no way to predict how and when this war will end.
Ms Truss was forced to defend her earlier support for the British going to fight alongside the Ukrainian army, contrary to advice from the Foreign Office.
She did not rule out negotiating directly with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, which handed down the sentences against the two men who were fighting for the Ukrainian army.
But she said the ‘best path’ for their release was to deal with Kyiv, adding: ‘I can’t get into my discussions with the Ukrainians, but I can assure the families that we are working hard there- above”.
The Russians were holding Mr Aslin, 28, from Newark in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire while claiming they are foreign ‘mercenaries’.
But Britain and their families claim they were legitimate members of the Ukrainian military who should therefore be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.
Both men had been living in Ukraine since before the invasion.
Ms Truss was questioned for indicating in February, shortly after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that she supported British nationals who went to fight with the Kyiv Defense Forces.
She had told the BBC’s Sunday Morning program that ‘it’s something people can make their own decisions’.
“Absolutely, if people want to support this fight, I would support them by doing it,” she added.
But other ministers did not back the idea, with Defense Secretary Ben Wallace saying there were “better ways” for Britons to help.
The official Foreign Office advice for Britons also warned against all travel to Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Ms Truss defended her earlier remarks, saying: ‘We have always been clear that our travel advice is not to go to Ukraine and I was clear about that at the time.
Recalled from her previous remarks, she insisted: “What I said though, is that I also said the travel advice is not to go to Ukraine.”