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Kazakh Citizen Faces Trial For Joining Russia-Backed Separatists In Eastern Ukraine

The courthouse in Qaraghandy where the trial is taking place.
The courthouse in Qaraghandy where the trial is taking place.

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- The trial of a Kazakh citizen who fought alongside Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has started in Kazakhstan’s central city of Qaraghandy.

The 31-year-old defendant, whose identity the court ordered not to be released by media, pleaded guilty to "participation in an armed conflict in the foreign country" in 2015 and 2016 as the trial started on April 24.

He pleaded not guilty to separate murder charges in the deaths of two Qaraghandy residents in 2016.

A co-defendant pleaded guilty to failing to report a crime.

Several Kazakh citizens have been tried and convicted on charges related to the war in eastern Ukraine, including joining the Russia-backed separatists and inciting ethnic hatred by discussing the conflict on the Internet.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, after deploying troops and engineering the takeover of the regional legislature, in a move denounced by Kyiv, the West, and 100 countries in the UN General Assembly.

Russia has also supported separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 people have been killed since April 2014.

Russia's interference in Ukraine has raised concerns among its neighbors that it may have designs on parts of their territory -- particularly those which, like Qaraghandy and parts of northern Kazakhstan, are home to many ethnic Russians.

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