Downing Street has expressed concern over reports that British humanitarian volunteer Paul Urey, who has family in Lancashire, died while in the custody of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.
Daria Morozova, the human rights ombudsman for the Moscow-backed separatist leaders in Donetsk, said Paul Urey, described as a “British mercenary”, died in captivity on Sunday of chronic illness and stress.
Ms Morozova said: “From our side, he received the necessary medical assistance despite the serious crimes he committed.”
A Number 10 spokesman said the Foreign Office was “urgently investigating” the “clearly alarming reports”, adding: “our thoughts are obviously with his family and friends”.
In April, the Presidium Network, a non-profit group, said Mr Urey, who national media said has family, including his mother, living in Preston, and Dylan Healey were captured at a checkpoint south of the city of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine.
Mr Urey’s mother, Linda, expressed her anger on Facebook, writing: ‘I’m really angry.
She said she pleaded with the separatists to return her son and called them “murderers”, asking, “Why did you let him die?”
In a post, she said her son was taken from her at birth and after finding her, he was taken from her again.
“A cruel, cruel world,” she added.
Speaking at the time of her capture, Ms Urey told Sky News she had pleaded with her son not to travel to Ukraine.
She added: “He said, ‘Muma, I can’t live with myself knowing people…I need help getting to a safe place, I have to go. I would feel bad”.
Mr Urey, born in 1977 and from Culceth in Warrington, Cheshire, and Mr Healey, born in 2000 and from Cambridgeshire, traveled to Ukraine on their own, the organization said.
They weren’t working for the Presidium network, which helps deliver aid to Kyiv.
The organization said the couple disappeared while driving to help a woman and two children evacuate.
The Presidium network said it was concerned Russian forces believed the men to be British spies.
The Foreign Office said it was urgently seeking clarification of the situation.
A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are urgently seeking clarification from the Russian government on media reports that a British aid worker has died in Ukraine.”