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Ukraine politician: British soldiers sentenced to death will get back home

Aiden Aslin before being captured in Ukraine
Aiden Aslin before being captured in Ukraine

Ukraine politicians have suggested two Britons condemned to death for fighting Russian forces could be released in a prisoner exchange deal.

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were convicted of “taking action towards a violent seizure of power” when they appeared in court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, whose separatist leaders are backed by Moscow.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said yesterday she believed the authorities would ultimately act rationally. She said they are “well aware of the irreparable implications for them and for the Russians if they take any wrong steps against these three of our soldiers”.

She added: “Something tells me that, eventually, one way or another, sooner or later, these three servicemen will be exchanged or otherwise get home.”

Ukrainian MP Fedir Venislavskyi also said: “Both the Defence Ministry and the Main Directorate of Intelligence, which deals with the exchange of prisoners, are taking all necessary measures to ensure these citizens of foreign states are saved.”

Aslin, 28, and Pinner, 48, were both members of regular Ukrainian military units fighting in Mariupol, the southern port city.

Britain argues they are legitimate members of the Ukrainian army and should therefore be treated as prisoners of war. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to do “everything in their power” to secure their release.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office yesterday on behalf of the family of Pinner said they were “devastated and saddened at the outcome of the illegal show trial”. It added: “As a Ukrainian resident for over four years and contracted serving marine in the 36th Brigade, Shaun should be accorded all the rights of a prisoner of war according to the Geneva Convention and including full independent legal representation.

“We sincerely hope that all parties will cooperate urgently to ensure the safe release or exchange of Shaun. Our family, including his son and Ukrainian wife, love and miss him so much and our hearts go out to all the families involved in this awful situation.

Meanwhile a senior Ukrainian official has warned its army is running out of ammunition as it engages in intense artillery battles with Russian forces.

Vitaly Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region on the southern frontline, said the fighting had become a war of artillery. He urged Western allies to speed up their delivery of long range weapons and ammunition to help Ukraine fight back. “The help of Europe and America is very, very important,” he said.