British prosecutors have charged a man with terrorism offenses related to the war between Russia-backed separatists and Kyiv’s forces in eastern Ukraine.
Benjamin Stimson, 41, faces what are believed to be Britain’s first terrorism charges involving offenses allegedly committed in the conflict, which erupted shortly after Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.
Police in Manchester said in a statement on September 28 that Stimson was charged with two offenses: the intention of committing acts of terrorism and engaging in conduct in preparation for giving effect to this intention, and the intention of committing acts of terrorism and assisting acts of terrorism.
He was placed in custody and was set to appear in court on October 7.
It was unclear if Stimson had entered a plea, though The Telegraph reported that he had denied any involvement in military action in Ukraine.
British journalist Graham Phillips, who has angered Kyiv with his open support for the separatists while reporting on the conflict, has identified Stimson as a “Donbas militia member,” referring to the eastern Ukrainian region where separatist forces control some territory.
Stimson told Phillips that he traveled to the Donbas region in August 2015 and returned several months later. According to Phillips, Stimson was arrested by counterterrorism police at the Manchester airport in November 2015.
In an October 2015 BBC interview, during which he was shown holding a gun, Stimson said that he “would be prepared to kill people” in the conflict “if my life’s threatened,” according to a YouTube video posted by Phillips:
“I’m not terrorizing any civilians. I see myself as protecting the civilians here," Stimson said in the BBC interview.
In a follow-up interview, Stimson told Phillips that the BBC journalists told him to hold the weapon during the interview.
A spokesman for the BBC declined to comment on Stimson's assertion, citing the ongoing criminal proceedings.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Carl Schreck, the BBC, The Telegraph, and The Guardian