Saudi Arabia has acted as a mediator to return five prisoners of war to the UK, including Newark-born Aiden Aslin, as part of an exchange between Ukraine and Russia.
A number of British nationals had been captured in Ukraine since the war broke out with Russia earlier this year, with two men in particular, 28-year-old Aiden Aslin and 48-year-old Shaun Pinner, making global headlines.
The pair were captured by Russian soldiers in the besieged port city of Mariupol back in April, before being paraded on Russian state television, appealing for their release as part of a prisoner exchange.
Both men were held in detention and appeared in an internationally unrecognised court in the Donetsk People’s Republic – which itself is an unrecognised state held by pro-Russian rebels.
Aslin and Pinner, along with Moroccan national Saadun Brahim, were sentenced to death without the opportunity for witness evidence to be heard – a sentence they appealed.
The men were being tried as ‘mercenaries’ by the DPR soldiers, a claim which was often shut down by British politicians who insisted they be treated as prisoners of war – in line with the Geneva Convention.
Aslin, originally from Newark, first went to Ukraine in 2018 as a Marine and later became a citizen of the Eastern European nation with a fiancee living in the country.
After months of negotiations between nations to organise a safe release of the soldiers rather than see them killed as per the proxy court ruling, a solution has finally been found by the UK Foreign Office – allowing Aiden, Shaun and others to return home.
Details of how they were released have not been revealed, but it is believed that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was involved in freeing the British nationals, as the Saudi foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday that 10 prisoners of war had been released.
The news was welcomed by the British community and politicians alike, including Prime Minister Liz Truss and Aiden Aslin’s local MP, Newark’s Robert Jenrick.
Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) September 21, 2022
The Member of Parliament for Newark said: “I am delighted that my constituent, Aiden Aslin, and the other British prisoners of war held captive by the Russian authorities have finally been released and are on their way back to the UK.
“I am deeply grateful for the work undertaken by the Ukrainian government, the Saudi Crown Prince, Liz Truss, James Cleverly and the dedicated civil servants working in the FCDO Detainees team to bring their horrific ordeal to a close.
“Aiden’s return brings to an end months of agonising uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark who suffered every day of Aiden’s sham trial but never lost hope. As they are united as a family once more, they can finally be at peace.”