A British aid worker who was captured by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk region in April has died in custody, a separatist group official confirmed on Friday, an incident that may further stoke tensions between Moscow and London as at least three other UK nationals detained by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine continue to remain in captivity and face the death penalty.

Key Facts

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Paul Urey, a humanitarian worker, died on July 10, the human rights ombudsman of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) announced, according to Reuters.

The Donetsk People’s Republic is one of two breakaway entities in Ukraine’s Donbas region—the other being the Luhansk People’s Republic—which is only recognized by Russia, North Korea and Syria.

The DPR official Daria Morozova said Urey was suffering from multiple ailments including “diabetes and respiratory, kidney and cardiovascular issues.”

Morozova claims Urey was given “appropriate medical assistance” but he died due to the severity of his illness and stress.

Urey’s family has been informed about his death by the British Foreign Office, Sky News reported,

The condition of 22-year-old British aid worker Dylan Healy who was also detained alongside Urey is currently unclear.

Key Background

Urey and Healy were detained in April by the separatist DPR forces while driving a car past a checkpoint in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia. The Presidium Network—a British non-profit group that advised Urey and Healy— said both were working as humanitarian relief volunteers in the region. Earlier this month, both individuals were charged with “mercenary activities” by DPR officials, drawing immediate condemnation from the British Foreign Office. Both Presidium and Urey's mother had expressed concern about his well-being as he had type-1 diabetes and needed access to insulin.


Two other British nationals Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin were captured by Russian forces in Mariupol after months of fighting. DPR officials took custody of both men and put them on trial also for "mercenary activities." Both individuals were handed the death sentence in what was described by one British lawmaker as a “disgusting Soviet-era show trial.”

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Paul Urey, British aid worker held by Russian separatists in Ukraine, has died (Sky News)

Briton dies in detention in eastern Ukraine - separatist official (Reuters)