Russian TV host discusses Brits Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured in the besieged port city of Mariupol in April when their unit surrendered after holding off the Russian army for 48 days. They were convicted of attempting “a violent seizure of power” by the “Supreme Court” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The men were told to expect execution by firing squad after pleading guilty to mercenary and terrorist activities.
But the final decision will not be made by the head of the DPR, rather it will be made by the decision-makers in Moscow.
Mark Voyger, from the Transatlantic Defence and Security Program at the Center for European Analysis, told Express.co.uk: “[The DPR] would not dare do harm to Western citizens unless it has been ordered by Moscow because these so-called ‘republics’ are puppet entities that are completely controlled by Russia.
“I wouldn’t even call them ‘separatist republics’ in the true sense – they don’t have any international standing on their own.
“Therefore anything of this magnitude, that threatens a major international scandal, is a matter for the decision-makers in Moscow.
‘No doubt’ nightmare ruling to execute captured Britons is direct order from Putin
The soldiers were captured after defending Mariupol
“So in the unfortunate case that they were to go to the extreme and [execute] your citizens, the blame will lie with Moscow and not the local court, even though the Kremlin would then say the [DPR] local court had decided.
“Obviously the order would come, I have no doubt, from the top.”
Mr Voyger warned the illegal show-trial was held, in part, to dissuade Western soldiers from joining the war effort in support of Ukraine.
The Britons were legal combatants serving with Ukraine’s armed forces and fully entitled to protection for prisoners of war under the Geneva convention.
Labelling the fighters as “mercenaries”, and refusing to recognise their service in the Ukrainian Army, has allowed the DPR to charge them for terrorist activities which carry a death sentence.
The former US-Army adviser added: “This is one of the most potent tools of Russia’s hybrid warfare, it is the ‘law’ element, where they use quasi-legal instruments, for example, fictitious or kangaroo courts.
“Or fake laws that are not legitimate because they are rules that have been made by illegitimate authorities, and then [the Kremlin] hides behind those legal cases to make a point and to put pressure on the West.
“If your country tries to deal with the puppet authorities of the DPR directly that will grant those entities a certain level of international recognition, which is what the Russians want.
“So the only way to deal with the situation is to contact Moscow directly and put pressure on the Kremlin.”
Aiden Aslin (L), Shaun Pinner (C), and Morrocan national Brahim Saaudun (R)
Undated family handout issued of Shaun Pinner
On Wednesday night, the family of Mr Aslin told the BBC that his captors told him the UK has yet to make any attempt to negotiate on his behalf.
Pamela Hall, Mr Aslin’s grandmother, said the family had spoken to him in a phone call in which he said he had been told “time is running out” by his captors.
She said: “There are no words, just no words, it’s got to 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 Aiden has said the DPR has told him nobody from the UK has made contact, and that he will be executed.
“I have to believe what Aiden has said to us, that if the DPR don’t get some response then they will execute him. Obviously, I hope that isn’t true.”
Nearly two weeks ago, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she had called her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, to “discuss efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies”.
Downing Street also said that while Boris Johnson was “appalled” at the sentences, there were no plans for direct interventions with Russia, with the emphasis being on their status as members of Ukrainian forces.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are doing everything we can to support the men and are in close contact with and helping their families.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and have raised this with Russia. We are in constant contact with the Government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released.”