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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Will Stewart & Kieren Williams

Vladimir Putin ally with power to pardon death row Brits 'sees no ground' to save them

The only Russian politician who can pardon two British fighters’ death sentence has said he “sees no grounds” to save them.

Denis Pushilin is expected to hear pardon pleas from Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, along with 21-year-old Moroccan Sadun Brahim.

However, the leader of Vladimir Putin-backed separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has pre-empted the legal processes to come out ahead of the pardon pleas and already suggested he won’t grant any form of clemency.

The two Brits fought in Ukraine against Putin’s forces, but after being captured back in April, they were sentence to death by the pro-Russian DPR forces on June 9.

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

The DPR, a state recognised almost only by Russia on the international stage, had its supreme court issue death sentences for the two Brits.

Aiden Aslin (left), Shaun Pinner (middle) and Moroccan Sadun Brahim were all sentenced to death in Russia (TV Zvezda/east2west news)

Now, Pushilin has attempted to quash any hopes of seeing them safely return home after they were branded as “mercenaries”.

In footage shown on Zvezda channel, controlled by Vladimir Putin ’s defence ministry, Pushilin said: “As for possible exchanges, pardons and other things, at this moment I do have the right to pardon these people in accordance with our legislation.

“But I do not see any preconditions for me to move in this direction.”

He continued: “With the mercenaries, two British, one Moroccan - there was a court hearing, a direct court hearing, they were given lawyers.…

“Their crimes can be classified as grave and especially grave crimes. It was easy enough to predict … that they should be sentenced to capital punishment.

Denis Pushilin, Head of the Donetsk People's Republic ( news)

“My personal opinion is that this is just punishment for those people who came to kill civilians for money from other countries.”

His statement seemingly usurps the entire legal process, amidst claims from the west that the three were subjected to a show trial, which reportedly only lasted three days.

The trio will now lodge appeals that will be heard before any pleas but Pushilin's statement has thrown all that into disrepute.

The trial itself was riddled with questionable decisions, including five witnesses, on whose words they were convicted, simply not appearing for its duration.

Mr Aslin's family said in a statement: "We've heard the news from Donetsk and need some time to take everything in.

Aiden Aslin was captured in April, fighting in Mariupol (facebook/ EAST2WEST NEWS)

"We love Aiden with all our hearts. He and Shaun, as members of Ukrainian armed forces, should be treated with respect just like any other prisoners of war.

"We hope that this sentence will be overturned and beseech the government's of the UK and Ukraine to do everything in their power to have them returned to us safely, and soon.

"We can only imagine what they are going through right now.

"This is a very upsetting development and we ask that our privacy is respected at this time."

It is understood Mr Aslin's mum Ang Wood found out about the draconian sentence while watching the TV news at the family home in Newark, Notts.

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."

Shaun Pinner, 48 (social media/e2w)

The video appeared to show the two Brits in the dock in the pro-Russian territory's supreme court alongside the Moroccan national.

Mr Pinner was facing more severe charges after allegedly admitting to "seizing power by force"

Despite Russia’s efforts to recognise DPR, no other country does and under international law it is a part of Ukraine, which does not carry out the death penalty, just as Russia does not.

A Downing Street spokesman previously said: "The UK Government is 'deeply concerned' following the death sentences handed to Britons Aiden Aslin, 28 and Shaun Pinner, 48, who were captured while fighting for Ukraine."

The Foreign Office also condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes in the wake of the footage.

It said it was working with the Ukrainian government on the issue of British captives.

Denis Pushilin speaks about British war prisoners on June 12, 2022 (TV Zvezda/east2west news)

Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss tweeted: "I utterly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine.

"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."

A suspicion is that Putin wants the men to be bartered for pro-Kremlin prisoners held in Ukraine, like politician and tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, a friend of the Kremlin leader.

A third British detainee Andrew Hill, 35, a father of four from Plymouth, has also been told to expect the death penalty when his verdict is handed down.

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