Two Britons captured by Russian forces ‘are sentenced to death’ for fighting in Ukraine 

Outrage as Britons Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, are ‘sentenced to death’ by pro-Russian court after they joined Ukrainian army and were captured in siege of Mariupol

Brits Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, were captured in Ukraine in AprilThe so-called supreme court of the DPR issued the death sentences on ThursdayMoroccan national Saaudun Brahim has also been sentenced, reports said The men were accused of being ‘mercenaries’ after fighting with Kyiv’s troopsThe trio are being held by Russian forces in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)The three men said they will appeal the decision, Tass reported. The court is not internationally recognised, the BBC reportedForeign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the death sentences as a ‘sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy’. No10 said it was ‘deeply concerned’

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Two British men captured by Russian forces in Ukraine have been sentenced to death and are set to face a firing squad after a sham three-day, sparking outrage.

Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, were sentenced by the so-called supreme court of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Thursday, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said.

The judge said the men were guilty of two war crimes amounting to 17 and seven years. He said the ‘aggregated penalty’ for the men was death.

The men were accused of being ‘mercenaries’ after fighting with Ukrainian troops. 

A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted alongside them. 

The three men said they will appeal the decision, Tass reported. The court is not internationally recognised, the BBC said

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the death sentences as a ‘sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy’. 

‘I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine,’ the minister tweeted. 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 UK Government said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the development. 

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘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.’  

Former care worker Aslin moved from Newark in Nottinghamshire to Ukraine in 2018 after meeting his now-fiancee. In the same year he became a marine with the Ukrainian military. Pinner, an ex-British Army soldier originally from Bedfordshire, moved to Ukraine four years ago to join the Ukrainian military.

They were both captured when their unit surrendered in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol as it came under a brutal siege by Russian forces.

Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28 – along with Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim – were all captured while fighting in Ukraine. Pictured: The three are seen in footage

Aiden Aslin (right) and Shaun Pinner (left) were detained in April while fighting in Ukraine, before reportedly appearing in court in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the death sentences as a ‘sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy’ in a statement on Twitter

‘The Supreme Court of the DPR passed the first sentence on mercenaries – the British Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and the Moroccan Saadun Brahim were sentenced to death, RIA Novosti correspondent reports from the courtroom,’ RIA said on the Telegram messaging app.

Judge Alexander Nikulin said: ‘The aggregated penalty for the crimes [means] the sentence Aiden Aslin to an exceptional measure of punishment, the death penalty.

‘The aggregated penalty for the crimes [means] the sentence [of] Shaun Pinner to an exceptional measure of punishment, the death penalty.’  

The judge did not mention another British detainee Andrew Hill, 35, a father of four from Plymouth, who surrendered separately to Vladimir Putin’s forces, but who has also been warned about a death penalty. 

Aslin and Pinner were detained in April while fighting in Ukraine, before reportedly appearing in court in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Wednesday.

They are said to have admitted ‘training in order to carry out terrorist activities’.

The sentence was issued after a three day trial in which the five ‘witnesses’ in the case did not appear. The three men stood in a court cage.

It is believed the men will be permitted to lodge an appeal within one month, and to ask for a pardon from the rebel authorities in Donetsk.

The DPR released a video of the three men being read their sentences. 

Pinner appeared distraught and close to tears as the execution verdict was announced. He stared at the ground. Aslin, meanwhile, was expressionless. 

Reacting to the news in the UK, Layla Moran – the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokeswoman – said: ‘This is horrific and a clear breach of international law. My thoughts are with these brave men and their families at this deeply distressing time.

‘It’s vital that the UK Government swiftly engages with international partners – we need a unified front of condemnation at this egregious decision.’

Aiden Aslin 

Born: 1994, Newark-on-Trent

Worked as: Care worker

Combat experience: Travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight for the Kurds in a western-backed alliance against ISIS

He made headlines on his return to the UK in 2016 when he was arrested, charged with terrorism offences, and then kept on bail until all charges were dropped following protests 

Aslin then returned to Syria in 2017 to help in the fight to re-take the city of Raqqa, which had been the de-facto capital of ISIS’s terror-state

Journey to Ukraine: After being arrested in the UK a second time trying to return from Syria via Greece, Aslin moved to Ukraine after falling for a woman from the city of Mykolaiv

Having heard about Ukraine’s fight against Russia in Donbas from Ukrainian volunteers in Syria, he was persuaded to join the military and in 2018 signed up as a marine

Aslin completed three tours of the frontline and was dug into trenches in the Donbas in late February when Putin’s troops stormed across the border in a second invasion

He ended up falling back to the nearby city of Mariupol where he fought for weeks under siege, before being captured last week after his unit ran out of ammunition 

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Shaun Pinner 

Born: 1974, Bedfordshire

Worked as: A British Army veteran, having served for years in the Royal Anglian regiment

Combat experience: Fought ‘many’ tours including in northern Ireland, according to his family, who said he also served with United Nations missions in Bosnia

Journey to Ukraine: Pinner moved to Ukraine in 2018 which he made his ‘adopted home’ and decided to put his military training to use fighting Russian-backed rebels in the country’s eastern Donbas

He became engaged to a Ukrainian woman and worked his way into the marines, where he had been serving for the last two years

Pinner’s three-year contract with the marines was due to end at the end of this year, his family said, when he wanted to become a humanitarian worker in the country

Pinner was helping to defend the frontlines in Donbas when Putin’s invasion began on February 24

His unit of marines ended up hooking up with the Azov Battalion – members of the national guard with links to neo-Nazis – who were defending the city of Mariupol from the Russians

He was captured in Mariupol last week and paraded on state TV

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RIA news agency said Sunday that the investigation found Aslin had taken part in ‘the armed aggression of Ukraine to forcibly seize power in the republic for a reward.’

‘The criminal case was sent to court, the first hearing will be held soon,’ it noted. 

The announcement from the DPR Prosecutor General’s Office, which was posted to Telegram, said Mr Aslin had been charged with four separate offences: Committing a crime as part of a criminal group; forcible seizure of power or forcible retention of power; being a mercenary; and the promotion of training in terrorist activities.

‘Taking into account wartime, on the basis of the provisions of the current main law, according to the results of the trial, the mercenary may be assigned an exceptional measure of punishment – the death penalty,’ the statement said.

Aslin had previously travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight for the Kurds in a western-backed alliance against ISIS, and he made headlines on his return to the UK in 2016 when he was arrested and charged with terrorism offences. All charges were dropped.

Aslin then returned to Syria in 2017 to help in the fight to re-take the city of Raqqa, which had been the de-facto capital of ISIS’s terror-state.

After being arrested in the UK a second time trying to return from Syria via Greece, Aslin moved to Ukraine after falling for Diane.

Having heard about the fight against Russia in Donbas from Ukrainian volunteers in Syria, he was persuaded to join the military and in 2018 signed up as a marine.

Aslin completed three tours of the frontline and was dug into trenches in the Donbas in late February when Putin’s troops stormed across the border in a second invasion.

However, his unit surrendered to the invaders two days ago after they ran out of supplies and ammunition following 48 days of conflict in and around the besieged port city. 

Pinner, meanwhile, is a former Royal Anglian soldier originally from Bedfordshire. He also fought alongside Ukrainian resistance fighters. He had moved to Ukraine four years before joining Ukrainian marines.

Aiden had been fighting Russian forces in Mariupol as a fully paid member of Ukraine’s army, but surrendered to the invaders two days ago after his team ran out of supplies and ammunition following 48 days of conflict in and around the besieged port city

Aiden (circled) was serving with Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, but his communication with the outside world via social media became increasingly sporadic as his team was surrounded by Russian forces bombarding the city of Mariupol

In footage shared by Ria Novosti on social media on Wednesday, a translator can be heard asking Mr Aslin if he would ‘plead guilty’ to an offence, to which he replied: ‘Yes.’

Ria Novosti reported yesterday that the charge carries a term of 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment with restriction of freedom for a term of one to two years or life imprisonment. 

The video appeared to show the two Britons in the dock in the pro-Russian territory’s supreme court alongside a third man, reported to be Mr Brahim.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Office condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes in the wake of the footage being released, and said it was working with the Ukrainian government on the issue of British captives.

Hours earlier Tory former minister Robert Jenrick said Mr Aslin should be returned home at the earliest opportunity, possibly through a prisoner exchange.

The MP condemned the ‘trumped-up charges’ faced by both Britons and accused Russia of a ‘completely outrageous breach of international law’.

Pinner is a former Royal Anglian soldier originally from Bedfordshire

Shaun Pinner had moved to Ukraine four years before joining Ukrainian marines

Mr Jenrick told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘This is a British citizen, but who also holds Ukrainian nationality, is married to a Ukrainian, joined the Ukrainian armed forces in the normal way prior to (Vladimir) Putin’s illegal invasion, and has been serving in the armed forces.

‘He was taken prisoner by Russian forces and in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention, he should be being held appropriately and returned to Ukraine at the earliest possible opportunity, possibly through a prisoner exchange.

‘Instead of that Putin’s regime have chosen to put him and another British national, Shaun Pinner, on trial on trumped up charges, no evidence whatsoever. This is, I’m afraid, a completely outrageous breach of international law and it should be condemned.’

He added: ‘What I hope happens is that a prisoner exchange occurs in the near future. The Russian authorities have chosen to make an example out of these two British nationals and it is, I think, completely shameful.’

On Monday, Dominic Raab said the Foreign Office will ‘make all the representations’ on Mr Aslin’s behalf and his family have also issued an emotional statement calling for his release.

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.’

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are working with the government of Ukraine on the detention of British Nationals.

‘We condemn the exploitation of Prisoners of War for political purposes. They are entitled to combatant immunity and should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.’

People walk their bikes across the street as smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, May 2

A view of the destruction of the city of besieged Mariupol in Ukraine on March 26

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