UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson 'appalled' by British fighters' death sentences in Ukraine

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson 'appalled' by British fighters' death sentences in Ukraine
Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan Brahim Saaudun, have been handed a death by the so-called 'Supreme court of the Donetsk People's Republic' after being accused of being mercenaries.
3 min read
The British fighters, as well as Moroccan Brahim Saaudun, were captured by Russian troops while fighting for Ukraine [Getty]

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is "appalled" at death sentences handed to two British fighters captured by Russian troops in Ukraine, Downing Street said Friday as London pressed the case with Kyiv.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke by phone with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, and tweeted that the sentences were an "egregious breach of the Geneva convention".

The "supreme court of the Donetsk People's Republic," one of two self-proclaimed statelets in eastern Ukraine, has reportedly ordered the death penalty for Aiden Aslin, 28, Shaun Pinner, 48, and Moroccan Brahim Saaudun.

The trio have been accused of acting as mercenaries for Ukraine.

Russia's Interfax news agency said Thursday that the two UK citizens surrendered in April in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine that was captured by Russian troops after a weeks-long siege.

"The prime minister was appalled at the sentencing of these men," Johnson's spokesman told reporters.

"We are clear that we are supporting Ukraine in its efforts to get these men released. It is clear they were Ukrainian armed forces members and are therefore prisoners of war," he said.

Both the Britons have been living in Ukraine since 2018 and signed up to fight when Russia invaded, according to UK media. Pinner is married to a Ukrainian woman, and Aslin is engaged to a local.

"They are not, and never were, mercenaries," Aslin's family said in a statement.

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

In April, the two Britons were shown on Russian state TV, demanding Johnson negotiate their release.

Ukraine's ambassador in London, Vadym Prystaiko, said Kyiv has told Russian officials that the British pair are prisoners of war and cannot be sentenced to death under Ukrainian law.

Live Story

He predicted they would be traded for detainees held by Ukraine.

"It will be a swap," he told the BBC. "The important question is what will be the price for this.

"Because the Russians were talking about some Ukrainian MPs being swapped for them," Prystaiko said, referring to pro-Kremlin lawmakers now held by Kyiv.

He added the captured Britons were targeted by Moscow because of the UK's "clear position" in "supporting Ukraine".

Meanwhile, Pinner's Conservative MP Robert Jenrick has demanded the Russian ambassador in London be summoned.

But the UK government is reluctant to engage bilaterally with Moscow, fearing that would reinforce the claim that the captured fighters were mercenaries.

During a trial that lasted three days, the men pleaded guilty to committing "actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the Donetsk People's Republic", Interfax said.