Kazakhstan convicts man for fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine


KARAGANDA, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan Wednesday (May 30) convicted a man for fighting on the side of separatists in Ukraine, who are backed by the Central Asian country's traditional ally, Russia.

A court in Karaganda Province gave Nikita Stepin a seven-year sentence for "participation in a foreign armed conflict", a court spokeswoman told AFP by telephone.

The case received significant attention from media in Kazakhstan, where neighbouring Russia's military support for rebels in eastern Ukraine is viewed warily, despite strong ties between the two countries.

The defendant also received a further 20-year sentence for two murders he committed upon returning to Kazakhstan that did not appear to be directly related to his activities in Ukraine.

Provisions of Kazakhstan's criminal code mean he will serve a maximum of 25 years.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in April 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.

Moscow has denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence that it has been involved in the fighting and its explicit political support for the rebels.

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"don't count out a prison cell, a begging bowl may come as well" is a Russian adage