Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nadeem Badshah

British man facing death sentence in Donetsk told: ‘Time is running out’

Aiden Aslin behind bars
British citizen Aiden Aslin has been sentenced on charges of ‘terrorism’ by a court not internationally recognised. Photograph: AP

A British man sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court for fighting in Ukraine has been told the execution will be carried out, his family have said.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were sentenced on charges of “terrorism” by a court that is not internationally recognised earlier this month in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The former care worker, originally from Newark in Nottinghamshire, told his family that his captors claimed there had been no attempt by UK officials to negotiate on his behalf. His family said they had spoken to him in a phone call, in which he said he had been told that “time is running out” by his captors.

Aslin’s grandmother, Pamela Hall, told the BBC: “There are no words, just no words. It’s got to be everyone’s worst nightmare to have a member of your family threatened in this way.

“Aiden was extremely upset when he called his mother this morning. The bottom line is Aiden has said the DPR has told him nobody from the UK has made contact, and that he will be executed.

“I have to believe what Aiden has said to us, that if the DPR don’t get some response, then they will execute him. Obviously, I hope that isn’t true.”

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, discussed Aslin’s case with Ukrainian officials around a fortnight ago and spoke about “efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies” with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba. Truss has called the death sentences a “sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy”.

The Foreign Office is known to be investigating cases of British nationals who have been detained in Ukraine and is providing support to the families of Aslin and Pinner, from Bedfordshire. The two British men and a Moroccan national, reported to be Saaudun Brahim, were captured in April while fighting in the Ukrainian army in the city of Mariupol.

The men are understood to be the first Ukrainian soldiers to be tried by pro-Russian forces. The pair moved to Ukraine in 2018 and had served as part of Ukraine’s armed forces for several years before the Russian invasion.

Both have Ukrainian partners and had made the country their home. Aslin settled in the southern city of Mykolaiv and obtained Ukrainian citizenship, which he holds alongside his British citizenship.

The Russian proxy court claimed that the pair were “mercenaries”, accusing them of being sent to fight in a foreign conflict for money.

They were charged with crimes including the violent seizure of power and undergoing training to carry out terrorist activities, according to the Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, recently told British students that what Russia was doing to the British pair was a “tragic habit” and “there cannot be any justifications for such actions”.

The UK government has said they should be treated as prisoners of war under the laws laid out in the Geneva conventions.

Ukraine has given at least three Russian soldiers prison sentences for war crimes tied to the invasion that began on 24 February.

UK government sources suggested to the BBC that ministers were unwilling to negotiate with Moscow directly because it may risk fuelling a false Russian narrative that the men are mercenaries.

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.