(LR) Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saudun Brahim

Ukrainian war: two British fighters sentenced to death in a separatist zone, according to Russian state media | world news

Two Britons captured by Russian forces while fighting in Ukraine have been sentenced to death, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been accused of being mercenaries, another Russian news agency said.

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).

They reportedly admitted to “training for terrorist activities”.

A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was also reportedly sentenced to death.

The sanctions were handed down by the DPR Supreme Court, RIA said.

The men were found guilty of “mercenary activities and actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR”, Interfax news agency quoted a court official as saying.

(LR) Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saudun Brahim
(LR) Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saudun Brahim

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.

They risk facing a firing squad if the sentence is carried out.

The trio are the first foreign fighters to be convicted by Russian-backed separatists and have a month to appeal.

They will, their lawyer said.

Another British fighter captured by pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill35, awaiting trial.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she “totally condemns” the sentencing, describing it as a “fictitious judgment without any legitimacy”.

She tweeted: “They are prisoners of war. We continue to do all we can to support them.”

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Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner speak to Sky News before being detained

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner ‘should not be prosecuted’.

He commented: “We are obviously deeply concerned about this.

“We have repeatedly said that prisoners of war should not be exploited for political purposes.

“You know that under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity and should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.

“We will therefore continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities to try to secure the release of all British nationals who were serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and who are being held as prisoners of war.”

Footage previously shared by RIA on social media appeared to show a translator asking Mr Aslin if he would plead guilty to an offence, to which he replied: “Yes”.

In the video, the two Britons stand in the Supreme Court dock alongside Mr Brahim.

Mr. Pinner reportedly admitted “having seized power by force”.

The 48-year-old was filmed in April saying he had been captured while defending Mariupol, his adopted city.

His family stressed at the time that he was “not a volunteer or a mercenary, but was officially serving in the Ukrainian army”.

He told Sky News a few months ago that he was on his fourth tour of duty in Ukraine after serving in the British Army for nine years, that he had lived in the country since 2018 and that he had a Ukrainian wife.

Shaun Pinner's family have shared a photo of the 48-year-old former British Army soldier
Mr Pinner’s family have shared a photo of the 48-year-old former British Army soldier

Mr Aslin’s family said on Tuesday it was ‘a very sensitive and emotional time’ and that they were working with the Ukrainian government and the UK Foreign Office to try to free the 28-year-old.

“Aiden is a much loved and dearly missed man, and we hope he will be released very soon,” they said in a statement.

The former nursing home worker joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces as a Marine in 2018, applied for citizenship and has a Ukrainian fiancée.

Former Tory cabinet minister Robert Jenrick condemned what he said were “false accusations” facing the two Britons and accused Russia of a “completely outrageous breach of international law”.

Referring to Mr Aslin, Mr Jenrick told the BBC: ‘He is a British citizen, but also holds Ukrainian citizenship, (who) joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the normal way before the illegal invasion of (Vladimir) Putin, and served in the armed forces.

“He was taken prisoner by Russian forces and in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention, he should be appropriately detained and returned to Ukraine as soon as possible, possibly through a prisoner exchange.”

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