The Foreign Secretary and the local MP for captured Briton Aiden Aslin, who has been sentenced to death along with two others in a Russian proxy court, have questioned the legitimacy of the trial and demanded they be released back to the UK.
Aiden Aslin, 28, from Newark, and 48-year-old Shaun Pinner were captured fighting with the Ukrainian army during resistance efforts in Mariupol in April, after weeks of shelling from Russian forces.
The pair were paraded on Russian state television after their capture, both clearly physically harmed, while calling for a prisoner exchange for Viktor Medvedchuk – a notoriously pro-Kremlin politician that is currently facing a treason trial in Ukraine.
Aslin and Pinner appeared in a court with Moroccan national Saadun Brahim, facing war crimes brought to them by pro-Russian rebels. They were not allowed witness evidence at the trial, and were sentenced to death on Thursday.
The UK government and Ukraine’s top prosecutor said the sentences are a breach of the Geneva Convention, with the court in the unrecognised state of the Donetsk People’s Republic also not being recognised internationally.
The families of Aiden and Shaun, along with the government, maintain that they are both prisoners of war rather than mercenaries, which is what they are being referred to and charged with while held in detention.
Aslin and Pinner moved to Ukraine in 2018 according to their families, with both meeting Ukrainian partners during their time in the Eastern European nation and spending four years as marines.
The verdict has been condemned by politicians across the country, such as Aiden Aslin’s local MP Robert Jenrick, who represents Newark in Nottinghamshire.
The Newark MP appeared on BBC News on Thursday evening discussing the sentencing, which he called an “egregious breach of international law”.
Russian proxies have subjected my constituent Aiden Aslin to a fraudulent show trial and sentenced to death. This is an egregious breach of international law and must not be allowed to pass. pic.twitter.com/XaECmz8veU
— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) June 9, 2022
Mr Jenrick said in a statement: “This disgusting Soviet-era style show trial is the latest reminder of the depravity of Putin’s regime. Russia should be clear, they cannot treat British citizens like this and get away with it.
“Contrary to the Kremlin’s propaganda, Aiden Aslin is not a mercenary. He has been living in Ukraine and serving in its armed forces before Russia’s illegal invasion and as a prisoner of war is entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention.
“The Russian Ambassador should be summoned to the Foreign Office to account for this most egregious breach of the Geneva Convention. Aiden must be released as soon as practicable.”
These thoughts were echoed by Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom, who described it as a “sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy.”
The Foreign Secretary met with her Ukrainian counterpart on Friday to discuss what can be done to help the men and release them from their capture at the hands of Russian forces.
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.
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) June 9, 2022
“I did my job” – British ‘journalist’ who ‘interviewed’ Aslin after capture backs now-deleted video
Another person heavily involved in this ongoing story is British documentary maker Graham Phillips, who was given exclusive access to conduct a controversial “interview” with Aiden Aslin following his capture in Mariupol. Read our coverage of the full interview here.
The video was uploaded to YouTube but was eventually removed from the platform after an appeal from Aslin’s family and the government, over fears it is a breach of the Geneva Convention.
It is unclear if Aslin is speaking under duress throughout, but the credibility of the interview is harmed by the track record of the man conducting it.
Graham Phillips has often been accused of being a Kremlin mouthpiece in recent years. The former Russia Today correspondent was banned from Ukraine in 2014 following his alleged propaganda reporting of fighting in Donbas.
He has also been given a medal from a branch of Russia’s security agency, the FSB, and was heard to have said in a previous YouTube video that a Russian massacre of 500 civilians in Bucha was a hoax.
The filmmaker has now taken to his Facebook page to explain his feelings about the death sentences, remarkably stating: “I simply do not care for them, or about them.”
Phillips launched an attack at the British parliament and media for their condemning of his coverage before announcing that he feels he merely did his job “as a journalist”.
He said on Thursday: “So, what do I think about the death sentence, for Aslin and Pinner? I think i did my job, as a journalist, back in April. It’s not my job to be a g******e with an opinion on everything, or to attempt to influence the judicial processes of the DNR. I love Donbass, the people of Donbass. They have my attention, and love, all the time.
“Aslin? I finished the interview with him, published it, dealt with all the blowback, and have barely even thought about him since. Pinner, I never even met him, just didn’t have the time to do another interview of that nature.
“So, what do I think? I think that I did my job as a journalist when i interviewed Aslin. That a DNR court has done its job in reaching the verdict they have. And I’ve got other reportage that I’m working on, and thinking about at the moment which is much more important to me than the fates of a couple of British guys who fought with Ukrainian neo-Nazis, against the people of Donbass.
“Let anyone around the world thinking of making that decision look at them now, and see how that works out. As for Aslin and Pinner, you have to seriously entertain the possibility that I simply do not care for them, or about them.”