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Two UK citizens received the death sentence by the Donetsk People's Republic. As far as I understand, the UK does not recognize DPR. I would guess that they can't protest to something that to them does not exist? How are cases like this (need to protest to something one does not recognize as existing) usually dealt? Would they protest to Russia instead?

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    What are you expecting to happen as a result of a protest? And why would they not be able to protest the sentences? The only question I see is if the Donetsk People's Republic would care about the protests.
    – Joe W
    Jun 9, 2022 at 21:41
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    " I would guess that they can't protest to something that to them does not exist?" I don't understand this. Can you maybe elaborate more in the question, why you think this to be true. Why not protesting against whoever did something there? Jun 9, 2022 at 22:36
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    People/countries who think the DPR is not a legitimate country don't think it doesn't exist. They think it is not a sovereign nation that can make up its own laws, but it is still an organisation that factually exists (I imagine the UK position is the DPR are a criminal organisation of Ukrainians illegally rebelling against their government). There's no impossibility in the UK sending them messages of protest. Whether that would achieve anything is another matter.
    – Ben
    Jun 10, 2022 at 0:56
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    @Allure what is Ukraine expected to do about the DPR? Jun 10, 2022 at 9:48
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    @user253751 prisoner exchange - the UK pressures Ukraine to swap some Russian POWs for the British captives.
    – Allure
    Jun 10, 2022 at 10:02

2 Answers 2

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I would guess that they can't protest to something that to them does not exist?

Not recognizing a de facto government as a sovereign state is not the same as not recognizing that it exists. The very act of refusing to recognize a government as legitimate acknowledges the existence of an entity claiming legitimacy.

The UK is careful to qualify references to the claimed government and its officers with the phrase "so called," which highlights the UK government's disagreement with the various labels ("so-called 'Donetsk People's Republic'"; "so-called 'Chair of the Government'"; etc.).

Claiming that the unrecognized government does not exist whatsoever would be (as this question shows) irrational and counterproductive.

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Of course the U.K. can protest. The DPR exists "de facto". It doesn't need to exist "de jure" to be negotiated with. The vast majority of all countries have "de facto" diplomatic relations with Taiwan without officially recognizing it as a sovereign nation.
This is, however, a moot point anyway, since in this case the DPR arguably won't do anything without Russia's approval, so it can be safely assumed that the U.K. will be in fact negotiating with Putin with regard to this matter.

So in the end it boils down to regular diplomacy:
The U.K. could threaten Putin with consequences or Putin could offer to have them released in return for some quid pro quo.
At this point what will happen can only be speculated, including whether the public will even get to know anything about the negotiations behind closed doors.

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