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A Briton who surrendered to Russian forces after fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol is at risk of torture, a friend has claimed.
Aiden Aslin, originally from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, joined the Ukrainian marines in 2018 and had been fighting with his unit in Mariupol during the Ukraine crisis.
But in comments first posted on his Twitter account, which is run by a friend of Aslin, he spoke of having “no choice but to surrender” after running out of food and ammunition.
Now his friend Brennan Phillips, 36, an American former serviceman who trained him to fight Isis in Syria in 2015, has told The Times that he fears Aslin could be tortured by Russian troops.
He said: “From this point on anything [bad] that happens to him is a war crime by the Russian forces.
“I’m worried that he’s going to get tortured, I’m worried that he’s going to get murdered... that they will twist this as him being a foreign mercenary or part of a paramilitary organisation. Any excuse they can use to abuse him. That is what I’m most worried about.”
Phillips said that Russia do not “abide by international norms”, adding that “civilians are fair game”.
Watch: Satellite images show Russian forces moving into eastern Ukraine
A tweet from Aslin's account denied that Aslin was a mercenary, insisting that he had joined the Ukrainian military as a "totally legal combatant".
According to the Russian state media agency TASS, Russia has declared that foreign mercenaries fighting in Ukraine won't be treated as prisoners of war under international law.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov is quoted by TASS as saying: "At best, they can expect to be prosecuted as criminals."
Speaking to the BBC, Aslin’s mother Ang Wood said her son told her he had no choice but to lay down arms.
She also called for more support for Ukraine from the government.
Aslin previously fought two tours with the Kurdish YPG group in Syria against Isis between 2015 and 2016.
US president Joe Biden has accused Russia of carrying out genocide in Ukraine.
An initial report by a mission of experts set up by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe documents a “catalogue of inhumanity” by Russian troops.
“This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting and forced deportation of civilians to Russia,” the US ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter said.
Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes are fabricated.
It comes as Russia claimed more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered in Mariupol, although Ukraine has said the city is still standing despite bitter fighting and shelling which has left the encircled city in ruins.
Mariupol’s mayor said about 21,000 civilians had been killed with another 100,000 awaiting evacuation.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych did not comment on the alleged mass surrender, but said in a post on Twitter that elements of the 36th Marine Brigade had managed to link up with other Ukrainian forces in the city as a result of a “risky manoeuvre”.