Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin forced to say they're terrorists in court

Two British-born prisoners of war were forced to lie they were terrorists in Russian proxy court – as Ukraine pledge to offer a swap to get the death-sentenced pair back to safety

  • Brits Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, were captured in Ukraine in April 
  • So-called supreme court of Donetsk People’s Republic issued death sentences 
  • UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the sentences as a ‘sham judgment’ 
  • Meanwhile, Ukraine has offered a prisoner swap to get two Britons to safety 

Two British-born prisoners of war were forced to lie that they were terrorists in a Russian proxy court – as Ukraine offer a swap to get the death-sentenced pair back to safety. 

Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, admitted they were ‘undergoing training with the aim of carrying out terrorist activities’ in the so-called supreme court of Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The pair, who were detained in April, believed they would be let off with a lighter sentence and would be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, reports The Sun. 

However, their families and British officials believe they were deceived by the Kremlin court and therefore wrongly pleaded guilty to terrorism.

Mr Pinner told the newspaper on April 25: ‘We’re scared to death. Mariupol is my adopted city. I’m not a freedom fighter — Mariupol is my home.’

Meanwhile, Mr Aslin added: They have agreed to do a prisoner exchange with myself and Shaun. It is important Boris Johnson is able to help influence this decision.’

The trial is taking place in the DPR, one of two breakaway Russian-backed entities in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine which Russia says it is fighting to ‘liberate’ from Ukrainian forces.

Two British-born prisoners of war were forced to lie that they were terrorists in a Russian proxy court – as Ukraine offer a swap to get the death-sentenced pair back to safety

Shaun Pinner, 48, (left) and Aiden Aslin, 28, (right) admitted they were ‘undergoing training with the aim of carrying out terrorist activities’ in the so-called supreme court of Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)

British fighters captured while fighting in Ukraine were forced to beg for their lives in scripted phone calls to UK journalists by the Russian-backed separatists who are holding them captive. Pictured: Aiden Aslin (first left) and Shaun Pinner (second left)


British Army veteran Mr Pinner (right), from Watford, looked distraught in the caged dock as the sentence was read out on Thursday, while Mr Aslin (left), from Newark in Nottinghamshire, remained silent but composed

Three days before launching its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia recognised them as independent states in a move condemned by Ukraine and the West as illegal.

British Army veteran Mr Pinner, from Watford, looked distraught in the caged dock as the sentence was read out on Thursday, while Mr Aslin, from Newark in Nottinghamshire, remained silent but composed.

Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin were previously forced to beg for their lives during scripted phone calls to family members and UK journalists by the Russian-backed separatists who are holding them captive.

They were convicted of being ‘mercenaries’ and conducting ‘terrorist activities’ for fighting with Ukrainian troops, in what Tory minister Robert Jenrick called a ‘Soviet-era style show trial’, weeks after they were captured during the siege of Mariupol.

Larysa Pinner, a Ukrainian native, said her husband Shaun was a ‘warrior’ and warned that the ‘circus’ surrounding her husband’s sentencing will be dragged out by Russia’s propaganda machine for maximum effect

A former care worker, Mr Aslin (pictured left) moved to Ukraine after falling for his now-wife Diane (pictured right), who is originally from the city of Mykolaiv – found about 260 miles west of Mariupol, along the coast. She is reported to have moved to the UK to be with his family

Aiden (circled) was serving with Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, but his communication with the outside world via social media became increasingly sporadic as his team was surrounded by Russian forces bombarding the city of Mariupol

Vladimir Putin’s ‘man in Ukraine’ could be key to the British men’s fate

The key to the British men’s fate could be oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, known as Vladimir Putin’s ‘man in Ukraine’ and currently in Kyiv’s custody.

The hostage Britons were previously paraded on camera asking to be exchanged in a prisoner swap for Medvedchuk, 67.

Putin is godfather to one of his children and their families have enjoyed Black Sea holidays together.

Oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who is known as Vladimir Putin’s ‘man in Ukraine’ and is currently in Kyiv’s custody

However the Ukrainian authorities seem unwilling to give up Medvedchuk – who lived in Kyiv – as he was last week charged with treason.

The former politician and lawyer had been placed under house arrest last year, accused of selling military secrets to Moscow and helping in the annexation of Crimea.

But he fled four days after the invasion in February, only to be arrested in April while wearing military fatigues in an attempt to blend in.

He was offered to Moscow in return for ‘boys and girls who are now in Russian captivity’, something that was dismissed by the Kremlin but which came with a warning Ukrainian leaders should ‘watch out’.

Yesterday’s show trial is being seen as a possible tit-for-tat response. The death penalties could be a tactic by Russia to increase pressure on getting Medvedchuk out of Ukrainian hands.

The pair, both signed-up members of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, were sentenced to death and are set to face a firing squad, pending appeal.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has revealed they are willing to exchange prisoners to get the death-sentenced Britons released.

Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, believed Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin will be released in exchange for Russian prisoners held in the country.

However, British Officials want to avoid making the captured Brits a ‘bilateral issue’ as the pair are Ukrainian prisoners-of-war under international law, a source has told The Daily Telegraph.

They said: ‘It’s really important that we don’t give the Russians any ammo to paint these guys as mercenaries.’

Mr Prystaiko told BBC News: ‘It will be a swap. They have contracts with the armed forces, they lived in Ukraine before, so they are legitimately there.

‘We expect Russia to remember that these are our people, now they are prisoners of war and should be treated as prisoners of war – the same way we are treating Russians in our captivity.’

Maria Zakaharova, the Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman, said: ‘There haven’t been any requests from Britain to the Russian foreign ministry about Pinner and Aslin. This makes us think that London never really cared about the future of those UK citizens.’

Meanwhile, it is understood Mr Aslin’s mother Ang Wood found out about the barbaric sentence while watching the TV news at the family home in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

The 28-year-old’s devastated family, who met officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in London on Thursday, demanded he is ‘treated with respect’ and urged both the UK Government to help bring them home safely – something a Whitehall source has cautioned could make matters worse.

In a statement, the family said: ‘We’ve heard the news from Donetsk and need some time to take everything in.

‘We love Aiden with all our hearts. He and Shaun, as members of Ukrainian armed forces, should be treated with respect just like any other prisoners of war. They are not, and never were, mercenaries.

‘We hope that this sentence will be overturned and beseech the government’s of the UK and Ukraine to do everything in their power to have them returned to us safely, and soon.

‘We can only imagine what they are going through right now. This is a very upsetting development and we ask that our privacy is respected at this time.’

It has also emerged that the key to the British men’s fate could be oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, known as Vladimir Putin’s ‘man in Ukraine’ and currently in Kyiv’s custody. The death penalties handed out to Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin could be a tactic by Russia to increase pressure on getting Medvedchuk out of Ukrainian hands. 

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss slammed the ruling as a ‘sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy’, declaring that the men were prisoners of war.

Pinner is a former Royal Anglian soldier originally from Bedfordshire

Pictured: Shaun Pinner (second right) is seen in this selfie, along with Aiden Aslin (second left)

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the sentences as a ‘sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy’ in a statement

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the UK was working with Kyiv to try and secure the men’s release, with Downing Street describing the Prime Minister as ‘deeply concerned’.

‘Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity,’ said a PM spokesman. 

However, a Whitehall source cautioned that getting more involved could worsen the situation. They added: ‘There’s a solid rationale for not wanting to escalate this and make it a bilateral issue between the UK and Russia.

‘This is because international law considers them Ukrainian combatants, and Ukraine is responsible for them in legal terms. If the UK gets involved, it will aid Russia’s argument that these are mercenaries.’

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