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Ukraine Jails Brazilian For 13 Years Over Conflict In East

An alleged document of the Brazilian issued by the armed separatist group in control of the eastern city of Donetsk.
An alleged document of the Brazilian issued by the armed separatist group in control of the eastern city of Donetsk.

A Brazilian citizen who authorities say fought alongside Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has been sentenced to 13 years in prison by a Kyiv court.

The Brazilian was convicted of creating a "terrorist organization" and "recruiting mercenaries for terrorists," the Pechersk district court said in a statement.

The January 25 statement did not name the man or say when he was sentenced.

Ukrainian media, including outlets based in separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine, have reported that his name is Rafael Lusvarghi and that he was arrested upon arrival at Kyiv's Boryspil International Airport in October 2016.

Ukraine calls the conflict in its eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions an "antiterrorist operation," and officials often refer to forces on the separatist side as "terrorists."

A Facebook page advocating for Lusvarghi's release and featuring a photo of a fighter holding a separatist flag shared a report by a separatist website confirming it was he who was sentenced. The website said Lusvarghi is 32 years old.

The Kyiv prosecutor's office has alleged that the Brazilian convicted in court fought alongside separatists between September 2014 and May 2015, including in deadly battles for the town of Debaltseve and the Donetsk airport.

During that time, he served as a military instructor and scout, as well as a recruiter of foreign fighters, the prosecutor's office said.

He is believed to be the first non-Russian to be convicted and sentenced by Ukraine for alleged crimes relating to the war, which has killed more than 9,750 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

Foreigners from several countries have fought in the war. Russian media have quoted Lusvarghi as saying that he "fights not only for Novorossia, but also for a multipolar world."

The term Novorossia means "New Russia" and is used by some Russians and separatists to refer to large parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that they covet.

With reporting by from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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