A British man sentenced to death by a Russian deputy for fighting Ukraine has been told that the execution will be carried out, his family has said.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, was convicted of “terrorism” by a court not internationally recognized earlier this month in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
The former care worker, originally from Newark in Nottinghamshire, told his family that his guards were claiming that British officials had not tried to negotiate on his behalf. His family said they had spoken to him in a phone call in which he said he had been told “time is running out” by his guards.
Aslin’s grandmother, Pamela Hall, told the BBC: “There are no words, just no words. It must be everyone’s worst nightmare to have a member of your family threatened in this way.
“Aiden was extremely upset when he called his mother this morning. The bottom line is that Aiden has said that the DPR has told him that no one from the UK has made contact and that he will be executed.
“I have to believe what Aiden has told us that if the DPR gets no response, then they will execute him. I hope, of course, that is not true.”
Foreign Minister Liz Truss discussed Aslin’s case with Ukrainian officials about fourteen days ago and spoke of “efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian agents” with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba. Truss has called the death sentences a “similar sentence with absolutely no legitimacy”.
The Foreign Office is known for investigating cases of British nationals detained in Ukraine and providing support to the families of Aslin and Pinner from Bedfordshire. The two British men and a Moroccan national reported to be Saaudun Brahim were captured in April while fighting in the Ukrainian army in the city of Mariupol.
The men are believed to be the first Ukrainian soldiers to be put on trial by pro-Russian forces. The couple moved to Ukraine in 2018 and had served as part of Ukraine’s armed forces for several years before the Russian invasion.
Both have Ukrainian partners and had made the country their home. Aslin settled in the southern city of Mykolaiv and obtained Ukrainian citizenship, which he holds alongside his British citizenship.
The Russian proxy court claimed the couple were “mercenaries” and accused them of being sent to fight in a foreign conflict for money.
They were accused of crimes, including violent takeover and having undergone training to carry out terrorist activities, according to the Russian news media RIA Novosti.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy recently told British students that what Russia was doing to the British couple was a “tragic habit”, and “there can be no justification for such actions”.
The British government has said they should be treated as prisoners of war under the laws of the Geneva Conventions.
Ukraine has sentenced at least three Russian soldiers to prison terms for war crimes in connection with the invasion that began on February 24.
Sources from the British government suggested to the BBC that the ministers were not willing to negotiate directly with Moscow because it could risk fueling a false Russian narrative that the men are mercenaries.