A Foreign Office team has been set up to support the families of British nationals who have been captured by pro-Russian forces during the war in Ukraine.
Five Britons are currently detained having been captured in Ukraine, with two sentenced to death in what the Foreign Office considers “sham judgements”.
A court in the self-proclaimed Dontesk Peoples Republic has sentenced two British men: Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, to death.
They have both lived in Ukraine for a number of years and were serving with its regular forces when the full-scale war broke out.
A group of officials from the Foreign Office’s crisis management department spoke to journalists about the status of British citizens in Ukraine.
The officials said lessons learned during the evacuation operation in Afghanistan last summer were applied when the crisis in Ukraine grew earlier this year, but the two conflicts evolved in different ways.
David Sharp, joint head of the Ukraine consular team, said: “We have a team set up to look after the families of those who have been detained in Ukraine.
“So we’re in regular touch with the families and providing them with all the support we can and advice.”
The amount of help which can be provided is restricted as the Foreign Office does not have a presence on the ground, he said.
The Geneva Convention sets out that prisoners of war should be humanely treated.
Mr Sharp said: “We’ve raised our concerns about the treatment of the men and that they shouldn’t be used for political gain, and that they are prisoners of war and they should be treated under international humanitarian law.”
The UK government does not recognise the authority of the separatist forces currently holding the men in the Donbas region, meaning that contact has been with the Russian government.
Mr Sharp said: “We don’t recognise the people who are holding them.
“The sham judgements that were put out on those guys – we don’t recognise the system they have in place.”
UK nationals who have signed up to fight with the Ukrainian armed forces are considered to be Ukraine’s responsibility, he said.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are doing everything we can to support the men and are in close contact with and helping their families.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and have raised this with Russia.
“We are in constant contact with the government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released.”