Family members of two Britons sentenced to death by a Russian-backed court after fighting in Ukraine have described their devastation at the news.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been charged with being mercenaries.
They were captured in Mariupol in April during the intense struggle for control of the port city, before appearing in court in the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
There, according to the Russian news agency Interfax, they were found guilty of “mercenary activities and actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR”.
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A statement released by Mr Aslin’s family said the pair were not mercenaries and needed time to “take it all in”.
He continues, “We love Aiden with all of our hearts. He and Shaun, as members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, should be treated with respect like any other POW.
“They are not, and never have been, mercenaries.”
They said they hoped the conviction would be overturned and called on the British and Ukrainian governments to “do everything in their power to ensure that they are returned to us safe and sound, and quickly”.
He added: “We can only imagine what they’re going through right now. It’s a very upsetting development.”
Mr Aslin’s brother also reacted in shock to the news and said his family needed time to come to terms with the situation.
He said: “We have just been informed ourselves, currently my mother is in talks with the Foreign Office.”
Back in January Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay had met Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin in trenches on the front line outside Mariupol.
Mr Pinner explained that he married a Ukrainian and said: ‘I have every right to be here… it took me a long time to fit in here so guys know I’m not not a war tourist or a war junkie.
“I’m with an organized unit, I’m with the government and I’m a contract soldier, so I tried to get away from this volunteer unit and the militia…”
The British are fighting in the trenches of Ukraine
The Russian military has argued that what it considers foreign mercenaries fighting for Ukraine are not combatants.
A long prison sentence is the best they can hope for if caught, Moscow said.
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They risk facing a firing squad if the sentence is carried out. They will appeal.
Another British fighter captured by pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill35, awaiting trial.