Russian proxy court in east Ukraine convicts ex-OSCE staff on treason charges

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LONDON (Reuters) - A Russian proxy court in eastern Ukraine on Monday sentenced two former Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) staff to 13 years in prison on treason charges that the OSCE called "inhumane and repugnant".

The court in the Russian-backed breakaway Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) - one of two self-proclaimed "people's republics" in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine - announced the sentences on Dmytro Shabanov and Maxim Petrov in videos aired by state-run media.

Separatist authorities said the pair, detained in April, had been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Ukraine's secret services and were passing information about Luhansk's military personnel and equipment to Washington.

The regional security body, which numbers Russia and Ukraine among its 57 members, said the charges were "fabricated" and that the men had been punished for performing their official duties.

In videos from a makeshift courtroom in the city of Luhansk, Shabanov, an OSCE security assistant, was seen standing in a metal cage, wearing black trousers and a black hooded top.

He stood silently as the verdict was read out before men in police uniforms handcuffed him, pushed his head down and took him from the court.

Petrov, a translator for the OSCE, stood in a glass cage, kept his hands in his pockets and appeared not to react as he was sentenced.

Both had worked for the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), established in 2014 to monitor the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Kyiv's forces that erupted after Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The SMM ceased operating this year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Zbigniew Rau said in a statement: "Our Mission members have been held unjustifiably for more than five months in unknown conditions for nothing but pure political theatre. It is inhumane and repugnant."

OSCE Secretary-General Helga Maria Schmid said the pair had been "performing official duties" and called for their "immediate and unconditional release".

The OSCE also said it was concerned for the fate of a third mission member detained in the LPR.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey)