Two British fighters captured by Russia ask to be exchanged for Putin ally ‘Prince of Darkness’

Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin ask Boris Johnson to bring them back to UK

Joe Middleton
Monday 18 April 2022 20:27
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'Bring my mother back home', says daughter of captured Ukrainian paramedic

Two British fighters captured in Ukraine by Russian forces appeared on Russian state TV today and asked to be exchanged for an ally of Vladimir Putin known as the “Prince of Darkness”.

Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin both spoke separately after being prompted by an unidentified man in footage broadcast on the Rossiya 24 state TV channel. It was unclear how freely the two men were able to talk.

Mr Pinner, 48, a former Royal Anglian soldier who is originally from Bedfordshire, was captured in Mariupol while fighting with the Ukrainian marines, and Mr Aslin, 28, originally from Nottinghamshire, had been defending the besieged city before having to surrender after running out of food and ammunition.

The two men asked British prime minister Boris Johnson to help bring them home in exchange for Ukraine releasing pro-Russian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, whose close friend Mr Putin is godfather to his youngest daughter Daryna.

Mr Medvedchuk was shown in a video released around the same time on Monday by Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service asking to be swapped too.

In his appeal to Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky, he asked to be exchanged for the defenders of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and any civilians allowed to leave.

Viktor Medvedchuk is a key ally of Vladimir Putin and has been captured by Ukrainian forces

Both Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin fought on the Ukrainian side in Mariupol, which is now almost entirely under Russian control.

The unidentified man on Russian state TV was seen showing the two Britons a video on his mobile phone of Mr Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana, making an appeal over the weekend for her husband to be swapped for the two British nationals.

Three days after Russia moved its forces into Ukraine on 24 February, Ukrainian officials said Mr Medvedchuk had escaped from house arrest.

He had been placed under house arrest in May 2021 and charged with high treason and later with aiding terrorism.

Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin (pictured) have both been captured by Russian forces

The pro-Russian figure has denied wrongdoing but said: “I understand the situation.”

Mr Pinner, who looked tired and nervous, said after being shown the video. “I’d like to appeal to the government to send me back home, I’d like to see my wife again,” he said.

Mr Pinner made a direct appeal to Mr Johnson on his own behalf and that of Mr Aslin. “We look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr Medvedchuk. Obviously I would really appreciate your help in this matter,” he said, saying he spoke a little Russian and had been treated well.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The unidentified man was then shown speaking to Mr Aslin, who was sat on a chair wearing a T-shirt bearing the emblem of Ukraine’s far-right Azov battalion.

“I think that Boris needs to listen to what Oksana [Medvedchuk’s wife] has said,” said Mr Aslin.

“If Boris Johnson really does care about British citizens like he says he does then he will help.”

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, has said a prisoner exchange may be possible.

He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme it “happens behind the scenes”.

“Like I said, this is where the back channels come into place,” he said. “It’s where the agencies do our work. We still have, despite Russia deciding to persona non grata many ... government officials, there are still communications that take place. We still have an embassy operating.

“That’s where these discussions should take place, not in the open media.”

In a statement released by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Mr Pinner‘s family explained how he became involved in fighting in Ukraine, which was “his adopted country”.

The statement read: “Shaun was a well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years. He served in many tours including Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia.

“In 2018 Shaun decided to relocate to Ukraine to use his previous experience and training within the Ukraine military.

“Shaun enjoyed the Ukrainian way of life and considered Ukraine as his adopted country over the last four years. During this time, he met his Ukrainian wife, who is very focused on the humanitarian needs of the country.

“He progressed into the Ukrainian Marines as a proud member of his unit.”

The statement continued: “We would like to make it clear he is not a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serving with the Ukrainian Army in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.

“Our family is currently working with the Foreign Office along with the family of Aiden Aslin, who is also being held by the Russian Army to ensure their rights as prisoners of war are upheld according to the Geneva Convention.”

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page

Additional reporting by Reuters

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