Scottish Daily Mail

Terrorism charge for ‘first Brit to f ight for Putin’s side in Ukraine’

- By James Tozer

A BRITON who joined Russianbac­ked rebels in Ukraine appeared in court yesterday accused of terrorism offences.

Ben Stimson, 41, is thought to be the first person from this country to be charged over alleged involvemen­t in the civil war.

He was filmed by the BBC last year with rebels near the eastern city of Debaltseve. His hand resting on the barrel of a rifle, he said he wanted to protect civilians from ‘Western imperialis­t aggression toward Russia’.

In the interview – which did not give his name or show his face – he added: ‘I’ve come here as a working man with no work; last job I had was December last year, zero-hour contract. You know what?

‘I’m not like the jihadis’

You can’t live in Britain any more. No housing, so I voted with my feet.’

Asked whether he was prepared to die in combat, he replied: ‘I think so because I’ve done something that I feel proud of. I’m not meddling, I’m not a terrorist, I’m not like these jihadis who go out to Syria.

‘The troops I’m fighting with are not terrorists. Who am I terrorisin­g? I’m not terrorisin­g any civilians, I see myself as protecting civilians.

‘I’ve not really participat­ed in much fighting, I’ve only been here three months. I haven’t fired a shot in anger yet.’

But he admitted: ‘I’m prepared to kill people if my life’s threatened.’

He also denied that the group he was with was supported by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Last month a video was posted on YouTube in which Stimson said the BBC broadcast had led to his arrest by counter-terrorism officers on his arrival back at Manchester Airport late last year.

Stimson accused the BBC crew of falsely making him look like a violent armed rebel. He insisted he had gone to Ukraine only to drive ambulances and had been trying to leave the militia. ‘They told me to pick a weapon up,’ he claimed.

Stimson, who said he had decided to start a new life in Russia after the failure of his business back home, claimed he had carried out humanitari­an work in Bosnia in the 1990s and had contemplat­ed driving ambulances in Kurdistan before settling on Ukraine.

‘I saw it as a fast track to citizenshi­p, maybe meet a nice girl over there,’ he said.

But a relative told the Daily Mail that Stimson, from Oldham, was a Walter Mitty character. ‘He left Britain to get away from drugs,’ he said. ‘We didn’t know where he was at first.

‘He’s never really travelled abroad before this. He’s certainly not been involved in any fighting, he hasn’t even fired a bullet.’

While a ceasefire deal ended large-scale fighting in eastern Ukraine last year, regular skirmishes involving separatist­s continue to take place.

Following concerns about hundreds of Britons travelling to Syria to fight with Islamic State and other extremist groups, the Coalition changed the law to allow the prosecutio­n on terrorism offences of people who return home after participat­ing in foreign conflicts.

Stimson appeared before Westminste­r magistrate­s in London. He was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey next month.

He stands accused of two offences, the first involving ‘the intention of committing acts of terrorism and engaging in conduct in preparatio­n for giving effect to his intention’.

The second concerns ‘the intention of committing acts of terrorism and assisting acts of terrorism’. The BBC made no comment on Stimson’s claims.

 ??  ?? Accused: Stimson sporting a rifle
Accused: Stimson sporting a rifle

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