'This is how I die': British soldier Aiden Aslin reveals moment he feared he would be killed by Russian torturer

20 July 2023, 18:54 | Updated: 20 July 2023, 19:37

Aiden Aslin
Aiden Aslin. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A British man who went to fight in Ukraine has detailed the terrifying moment he thought he was about to be killed by his Russian captors.

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Aiden Aslin, 29, fought with the Ukrainian armed forces as they tried to push back the Russian invaders in the early weeks of the war.

Mr Aslin, who had lived in the country since 2018, got stuck with his comrades in the Mariupol steel works, a deadly battleground taken by Russia in the early months of the war.

They were caught about 90 miles from the Ukrainian lines, and when Russian bombers destroyed their supplies and ammunition, they were left with little choice but to surrender.

Speaking to LBC's Andrew Marr on Thursday, Mr Aslin described the events that led to his capture.

Read more: 'I am your death': Harrowing words of Russian officer who tortured Brit Aiden Aslin

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"In the first week of April, by this point we were preparing to break out and drive back to Ukrainian lines, 140km away," he said. "We got stood down at the very last minute as we were about to break out.

'And then a day later the Russian aviation somehow found out where the trucks were that were prepared to leave, and they destroyed all the trucks that had all our ammunition in it. At this point we pretty much had no ammunition now. We had already run out of food and we were basically looking like rats trying to find what we can scavenge."

He added: "So a day later after that was when the command came to us and said ‘you’ve got three options, you can try to break out in the vehicles with the groups that are going to try to do it, or you can try and walk out on foot, or you can surrender officially.

"At that moment that was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my life. And I chose to do the surrender because at least in that way I won’t be caught by someone who’s caught in the adrenaline and just shoot me on the spot."

Aiden Aslin full interview

But captivity was not going to be much better for Mr Aslin, although he stressed that many Ukrainians had it much worse.

He said: "The Russian [hostility] when it comes to prisoners is deep-down, systematic at its core. Compared to some of the other Ukrainians that I was in captivity alongside, they suffered far worse conditions. You might have heard about people being castrated. There’s a lot more people that suffered more than I did.

"However, with me being British, they saw that as the enemy… they saw me basically as NATO."

He was held in a cramped cell, measuring 4ft by 6ft, which was infested with cockroaches and lice, and was told to stand and sing the Russian national anthem or be beaten.

He was only allowed out to film propaganda videos and to speak to the Foreign Office.

Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk last June
Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk last June. Picture: Alamy

Mr Aslin endured an array of brutal torture techniques, and told Andrew about the moment he was stabbed during a gruelling hours-long session.

He said: "The guy who beat and stabbed me for two and a half hours - he takes a break because he’s exhausted himself. He’s been whaling on me with the police baton and he takes his cigarette and he’s just stood looking at me.

"At this point I don’t realise I’ve been stabbed. He points it out to me, and the moment I saw the stab wound that's when I realise... I most likely am about to die. I can remember thinking to myself ‘this is how I die’. Truly, some of the most barbaric stuff I witnessed."

His torment appeared like it would become fatal when he was sentenced to death by firing squad for being a mercenary – which he was not.

He was finally released earlier in September that year along with four other Brits – John Harding, Shaun Pinner, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill.

The war in Ukraine continues to rage
The war in Ukraine continues to rage. Picture: Alamy

One of the soldiers asked if he had heard the Queen had died, had his eyes taped and put in a truck and taken to an airport in Rostov-on-Don in Russia.

"I'd removed the tape and was trying to process where I was. I'm looking at a group of Saudis and one of the lads says, 'Is that Roman Abramovich?'" he told the Sun last year.

Mr Abramovich said it was "good to have you here".

Mr Aslin added: "We sat down and Shaun sat next to me. Abramovich was watching everyone. He was a bit shy and didn't want to hassle us. It was amazing.

"Less than 48 hours earlier I was in solitary confinement, treated worse than a dog and now I was on a plane with people who didn't want to hurt me."

Mr Aslin said he planned to return to Ukraine, but will not be able to fight in the war, in line with the Geneva Convention.

Mr Aslin has published a book called Putin's Prisoner about his experiences, co-authored with John Sweeney.

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