Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Benedict Tetzlaff-Deas

Brit freed from captivity says Roman Abramovich welcomed them onto plane

One of five Brits released by pro- Russian forces this week says he was welcomed onto a plane by former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

The British nationals, who had been captured while fighting in Ukraine, were released on Wednesday (September 21) following mediation talks led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Among them were Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, Andrew Hill, Dylan Healy and John Harding, who were joined by five other foreign soldiers released under the deal.

The men had been kept for several months under rough conditions, with Aiden and Shaun having been sentenced to death by a court in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

It comes after ten prisoners of war, including five Brits, were released by pro-Russian forces as part of a Saudi deal (VIA REUTERS)

One of the freed POWs, John Harding, has now revealed that his flight to freedom in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh began with an unlikely familiar face in Roman Abramovich.

Speaking to The Sun, he says he was told by Mr Abramovich’s assistant that the Russian businessman and ex-owner of Chelsea Football Club had played a “key part” in their release.

After discussing his role in their remarkable rescue from detention, John says conversations between the men quickly turned to the beautiful game - and he seemed to leave a good impression on all of them.

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner - who were on the flight to Riyadh - had been sentenced to death (RG/east2west news)

Recalling the plane journey, the freed Brit told the newspaper: "He’s well respected by Ukrainians and massively by us now, too — he’s done a hell of a lot for us and we couldn’t thank him enough.

“He was a sound bloke, a really lovely guy. He’s a legend — we absolutely love him and I’m so grateful for his efforts.”

The five men have now returned to British soil and have since been reunited with their families.

After being informed that Abramovich helped secure their release, the freed POWs reportedly chatted to him about football (PA)

Abramovich was Chelsea owner for 19 years before he sold the club in March, following UK government sanctions placed on his personal wealth over connections with the Russian government.

He has since donated an undisclosed amount of money to victims of the war in Ukraine.

The release of the British soldiers was met with much jubilation by their families back home on Wednesday, while Prime Minister Liz Truss tweeted: “Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.