It has been revealed that two British fighters captured while fighting in Ukraine were 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.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, 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.
The pair, both signed up members of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, were condemned to death and are set to face a firing squad, pending appeal.
Aiden’s family has urged the UK and Ukraine governments to help bring them home safely in an impassioned statement shared on Thursday, but according to a newspaper outlet, both Shaun and Aiden made a string of phone calls in the weeks leading up to the sham court trial.
The pair said they faced the death penalty unless the demands of their captors were met, amid fears they were forced to make the calls at gunpoint in April.
The newspaper reports that both men made virtually the same pleas and warning that they faced 20 years in prison of the death penalty after being charged with being illegal combatants.
According to a newspaper outlet, Shaun’s mother, Denise Price, 65, also reported getting a phone call and said it seems as though the British fighters were being exploited for propaganda.
His wife Larysa voiced frustration at the absurdity and cynicism of this terrible and false event called a trial.
Writing on social media, she added that they also understand that Russian propaganda uses this case to the fullest and that this circus will go on for a long time.
Meanwhile, it’s understood Aslin’s mother Ang Wood found out about the barbaric sentence while watching the TV news at the family home in Newark, Nottinghamshire.
His devastated family, who met officials at the Ukraine Embassy in London on Thursday, demanded he was 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 that they’d heard the news from Donetsk and needed some time to take everything in.
The family said that they love Aiden with all their hearts. That he and Shaun, as members of the Ukrainian armed forces, should be treated with respect just like any other prisoners of war, and that they are not, and that they were never mercenaries.
If someone is legitimately in the army fighting in a war and then captured, then they become prisoners of war, but these British soldiers are being used as propaganda and are being regaled as hostages rather than prisoners of war.
Of course, our hearts should go out to those in Ukraine, but this isn’t our war and we shouldn’t be involved.
I never thought the possibility of world war could even be considered ever again, but we’re living on a minefield here and being our true evil selves is putting all the ingredients in place, and the last thing we need is for Boris Johnson to get involved. We know what happened the last time he stuck his beak in to help. No, Boris Johnson should sit this one out and let the adults deal with it!
Let’s hope that there can be an exchange of prisoners, maybe the exchange can be for Boris Johnson and Liz Truss!