Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were captured in April before being sentenced to death by firing squad at a court in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic
Family and friends of two British men who were captured by Russian forces whilst fighting for Ukraine have slammed the Kremlin’s case after they were sentenced to death.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured in Mariupol in April while fighting in the Ukrainian army and held in captivity for weeks.
The pair were subject to what observers described as a ‘show trial’ in a Donetsk court not recognised by the international community.
After ‘pleading guilty’ to a number of charges, they were told they will be executed by firing squad.
Now, their families and the UK government have rejected Kremlin claims they are mercenaries amid widespread fears they have been mistreated in custody.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss will raise their plight during a phone call with Ukrainian Dmytro Kuleba later on Friday.
She said: “I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine.
“They are prisoners of war. This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy.
“My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them.”
Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, the men should be entitled to combatant immunity as legitimate soldiers registered with a recognised army.
According to Russian media, they have a month to appeal their sentence, raising hopes it is a propaganda ploy or being used as a negotiating position.
The Sun has revealed both captured men called its London newsdesk using a satellite phone and made seemingly scripted pleas while in captivity.
Both said they faced the death penalty unless unspecified demands by pro-Kremlin militants were met.
Mr Aslin’s family, from Newark, Nottinghamshire, released a statement in the aftermath of the news. It read: “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.”
Colonel Richard Kemp, who served in the same Royal Anglian Regiment as Mr Pinner, from Watford, said: “This is disgraceful and I utterly condemn it.
“Shaun is a soldier and should be treated as such. This decision is a war crime and contravenes the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.”
Brennan Phillips, an American former soldier who met Mr Aslin when he was fighting Isis in Syria and worked alongside him in Ukraine, said the judgement is a ‘provocation’.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Phillips said: “I think it will invigorate people more than anything.
“Whatever effect they thought they would have in this provocation, I don’t think that and I don’t think it’s going to be well-received. And they did this as a provocation.’
He continued: “I do believe that their captivity under the Russians will be extended for a little bit, but I do believe wholeheartedly and I’m very confident that they will be released safely back to their families.”
Mr Phillips said the soldier is not a ‘thrill-seeker’, adding that he had a well-established life in Ukraine, Ukrainian citizenship’ after moving to the country in 2017.
He continued: “He has a Ukrainian fiancee. They do have or did have a home outside of Mariupol and he was a part of the 36th Marine Brigade.’
A Number 10 spokesman said: “We are obviously deeply concerned by this.
“We have said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes.
“You will know that under the Geneva Convention prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.
“So we will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities to try to secure the release of any British nationals who were serving in the Ukrainian armed forces and who are being held as prisoners of war.’
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