Watch: Concern for British foreign fighter reportedly captured by Russia in Mariupol
Aiden Aslin, from Nottingham, was taken captive by Russian troops laying down his rifle and surrendering after running out of food and ammunition in besieged Mariupol.
He was interrogated by pro-Kremlin YouTuber and fellow “Nottingham lad” Graham Phillips while in captivity, reportedly in Donetsk. It came after photos emerged of him appearing to have suffered injuries at the hands of his Russian captors.
In a heart-breaking message to his family, he says to the camera: “Diane, my wife, I want you to know, I love you. I hope the British Government is able to push this prisoner exchange through so I can return to you and we can build our life in Britain.
“To my mother and brother and the rest of my family, I also love you. I hope I can see you soon if this prisoner exchange is done.”
He begged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help bring him home in exchange for Ukraine releasing pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.
In the 45-minute interrogation he is repeatedly told to admit he is a mercenary, which in the region is punishable by death.
Mr Phillips asks what he would do to “atone for the evil he has been part of” by joining Ukraine and what he would say to Britons following him to fight in Ukraine.
He replied: “If you go, you’re an idiot like myself.”
“We were used and easily tossed aside and forgotten about. Don’t be an idiot like me and join up.
“I’m extremely lucky to be alive considering the situation in Mariupol.”
Watch: People of besieged Mariupol try to survive
He was told to denounce the “hero” status he has been given in sections of Western media, saying: “Firstly I’m not a hero I tried to desert that is not something a hero would do. Secondly, my treatment has been good I’ve not been beaten or anything.
“When I was surrendering I was scared to death at what might happen. I thought we would be lined up and shot but instead, it’s been quite the opposite. We’ve been given food and water. I had access to speak to Western journalists.”
On his relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he said: “He left us. Look at Mariupol before and look at it now. If we left Donbass Mariupol would still be a city. Right now it’s just graves.”
“If this exchange doesn’t go through. I would help rebuild. That is needed, especially after Mariupol. Civilians there have lost their homes and families it will probably be 10 years before Mariupol has some semblance of what it was like before.
On his plans if he is granted freedom, he said: “I would leave Ukraine. I previously told my wife, she left Ukraine because of their operation and her safety, she is now waiting to get a visa to go to Britain and be with my family.
“I already told her that once this is finished and hopefully I return we are going to live in Britain and build a family there.
“We can just forget about Ukraine because after this I don’t want to be here.”
After the interview was published on YouTube his personal Twitter account, who Mr Aslin said had been handed to a “Canadian friend” before he was captured, wrote: “Why is this even allowed on YouTube? Coerced statements from POWs. Remember that Aiden’s jailers control every aspect of his life now, like if he gets fed or not.”
Others called for Mr Phillips to be treated as a terrorist for working with the Russian state if he ever returns to the UK.
Medvedchuk, a wealthy businessman and lawyer who Russia want in exchange for Aslin, describes the Russian president as a personal friend and says Mr Putin is the godfather to his youngest daughter Daryna.
Mr Medvedchuk had been under house arrest in Kyiv, to face treason charges, but escaped shortly after Mr Putin invaded the country on February 24.
He is the leader of political party Opposition Platform – For Life, which Zelensky branded Ukraine’s largest opposition movement.