Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

Prisoners of war return to UK, Russia following swap deal

British nationals Aiden Aislan (right) and Shaun Pinner (left) were among 10 foreigners released under the prisoner swap deal agreed to by Ukraine and Russia [Instagram/cossackgundi/via Reuters]

Five British prisoners of war have returned to the United Kingdom as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, while 55 of Moscow’s own troops re-entered Russia following the deal.

The five Britons – Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, Dylan Healy, John Harding and Andrew Hill – were reunited with their families after landing at London’s Heathrow Airport on Thursday.

Presidium Network, a non-profit organisation that does relief work in Ukraine, including helping with evacuations, said it was pleased the men had been safely brought home.

“We know that all … [are] looking forward to normality with their families after this horrific ordeal,” the organisation said in a statement.

Aslin and Pinner were captured by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine’s southeastern port city of Mariupol in April and were sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a Russian-backed breakaway region in eastern Ukraine.

They, along with Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR” – a sentence condemned by Ukraine and the UK.

Harding and Hill were also captured while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, while Healy was detained while volunteering as an aid worker in Ukraine. All three denied being mercenaries during a court hearing in the DPR in August.

Paul Urey, a fellow UK national who was captured alongside Healy in April, later died in detention.

Russia confirms troops’ return

The announcement of the Britons’ returns came as Moscow confirmed that the dozens of Russian troops freed under its deal with Kyiv had re-entered the country.

“All servicemen have been delivered to the territory of the Russian Federation by military transport aircraft and are in medical institutions of Russia’s defence ministry,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement.

“They are receiving the necessary psychological and medical assistance,” it added, claiming the soldiers had been “in mortal danger” while being held prisoner.

The swap deal – the largest exchange of its kind between Ukraine and Russia since the latter launched its full-scale invasion in late February – also saw Moscow secure the release of Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician.

Medvedchuk, a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, had headed a banned pro-Russian party in Ukraine and was facing treason charges there.

In return for its release of the 56 prisoners, Ukraine secured the return of 215 of its own troops – including several commanders who had led a prolonged defence of Mariupol from Russia’s siege. It was not immediately clear if all of the soldiers had made it back to Ukraine at the time of publication.

Also freed were Saadoun, the Moroccan national, two Americans, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

The timing and size of the prisoner swap, which Turkey and Saudi Arabia helped to broker, came as a surprise.

Earlier on Wednesday, Putin had ordered the mobilisation of up to 300,000 of Russia’s reserve troops in an apparent escalation of Moscow’s offensive.

The Russian leader’s move came after a string of battlefield setbacks for Russian forces, who were recently expelled from swaths of territory in northeastern Ukraine during a sweeping counteroffensive conducted by Kyiv’s troops.

Related Stories
How Western allies helped secure release of Britons captured in Ukraine
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and others played a role in the key prisoner swap, explains Kim Sengupta
From analysis to the latest developments in health, read the most diverse news in one place.
Russia trades Azov fighters for Putin ally in biggest prisoner swap of Ukraine war
Moscow releases 215 prisoners in exchange for former Ukrainian MP Viktor Medvedchuk and others
Ukraine's Zelenskiy acclaims commanders freed in prisoner swap
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed as "superheroes" the senior Ukrainian commanders, including those who led the dogged defence of Mariupol, who…
Five UK prisoners released by Russia arrive in Britain
Five British prisoners of war released by Russia as part of an exchange with Ukraine have arrived back in Britain…
Aiden Aslin among 10 international ‘prisoners of war’ released by Russian authorities
Five UK and two US foreign fighters captured in Ukraine among 10 freed after Saudi Arabia’s intervention
One place to find news on any topic, from hundreds of sites.
Russia releases 10 foreigners captured in Ukraine after Saudi mediation
Russia and Ukraine carried out an unexpected prisoner swap on Wednesday, the largest since the war began and involving almost…