No10 ‘deeply concerned’ after two British fighters captured by Russian troops ‘sentenced to death’

·4-min read
Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin pictured  (Sky News)
Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin pictured (Sky News)

The UK Government has said it is “deeply concerned” after Russian state media reported two captured British men have been sentenced to death.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, appeared in court in the Russian-controlled territory in Donetsk where they were convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.

Thursday they were sentenced to death alongside Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, according to reports from state-owned Russian news agency RIA.

In the wake of the reports, a No 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 and secure the release of any British nationals who were serving in the Ukrainian armed forces and who are being held as prisoners of war.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the death sentences handed out as a “sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy”.

She wrote: “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.”

The three men fought alongside Ukrainian troops and surrendered to Russian forces weeks ago.

They will appeal the decision, Tass reported.

Tory former minister Robert Jenrick, who represents the Newark constituency where Mr Aslin lived, called for the Russian ambassador to the UK to be summoned to the Foreign Office.

He said: “This disgusting Soviet-era style show trial is the latest reminder of the depravity of Putin’s regime. Russia should be clear, they cannot treat British citizens like this and get away with it.

“Contrary to the Kremlin’s propaganda, Aiden Aslin is not a mercenary. He has been living in Ukraine and serving in its armed forces before Russia’s illegal invasion and as a prisoner of war is entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention.

“The Russian ambassador should be summoned to the Foreign Office to account for this most egregious breach of the Geneva Convention. Aiden must be released as soon as practicable.”

Following the news, Amnesty International UK’s Crisis Response Manager Kristyan Benedict branded it a “grotesque decision”.

She said: “This is a grotesque decision. This so-called trial always had the appearance of a show trial designed to exert pressure on the UK, and these sentences look like they’re intended to fire a warning shot to the UK over its support for Ukraine in this brutal war.

“The Geneva Conventions clearly state that prisoners of war must not be tried or sentenced simply for participating in hostilities, and still less should they ever receive death sentences.

“Russia and its proxies in the Donetsk People’s Republic will be adding to a massive catalogue of war crimes if they attempt to carry out these sentences. The UK and the UN and other bodies should inform Moscow that these sentences are completely unacceptable and must be quashed immediately.”

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the Foreign Office would make “all the representations” while discussing Mr Aslin’s case.

He told LBC: “In relation to that case, I don’t know all the details, but of course we would expect the laws of armed conflict to be respected, and we will make sure that we will make all the representations.

“I know the Foreign Office will be looking at making sure all those representations are made.”

Earlier this week, Mr Aslin’s family released an emotional plea as they said they were working hard to bring him back to the UK.

They said: “We, the family of Aiden Aslin, wish to ask for privacy at this time from the media.

“This is a very sensitive and emotional time for our family, and we would like to say thank you to all that have supported us.

“We are currently working with the Ukrainian government and the Foreign Office to try and bring Aiden home. Aiden is a much-loved man and very much missed, and we hope that he will be released very soon.”

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