Exclusive

Exclusive: 'Free my British friend who fought for Ukraine's freedom', Truss told

21 April 2022, 18:45 | Updated: 21 April 2022, 19:53

Pleas for Mr Pinner to return have been issued
Pleas for Mr Pinner to return have been issued. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Charlotte Sullivan

The friend of a British ex-soldier who's been captured by Russian forces and paraded on state TV is calling on the Foreign Secretary to act immediately to secure his release.

Shaun Pinner, who is originally from Bedfordshire, has been living in Ukraine with his Ukrainian wife for the last few years and had been fighting on the frontline defending what he considers to be his "adopted country".

In footage reportedly broadcast on the Rossiya 24 state channel on Monday, the 48 year old former Royal Anglian Regiment soldier addresses the British Prime Minister directly, asking for himself and fellow British prisoner of war Aiden Aslin, to be swapped for pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who has been held in Ukraine.

"Hi Mr Boris Johnson. I understand that Mr Medvedchuk has been detained and we look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr Medvedchuk," he said.

Read more: Brits captured in Mariupol's last stand ask to be swapped for politician on Russian TV

"Obviously I'd really appreciate your help in this matter and pushing this agenda."

It's reported that Mr Medvedchuk has also asked to be exchanged in a video released by Ukraine's intelligence service.

In a separate clip, 28 year old Mr Aslin is seen saying: "If Boris Johnson really does care like he says he does about British citizens then he would help pressure Zelensky to do the right thing and return Viktor to his family and return us to our families."

Andrew Marr hears from friend of ex-British soldier Shaun Pinner

It is unclear if the men were speaking under duress in the footage but Mr Pinner also says he has been "treated well" and "fed, watered".

LBC has now spoken to a friend of Mr Pinner's, who served with him previously and was in contact with him right up until signal was lost soon after the invasion began.

He says he was "gutted" to see his friend "paraded" on Russian TV and that it's now down to the British Government to act.

Read more: Govt Homes for Ukraine helpline giving 'false information' as 'pattern' emerges over 'lost visas'

Speaking directly to the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, the friend, who doesn't want to be named, said: "You need to take a team of your diplomats and speak about this and get this sorted so they, not just Shaun but the other guy too, can be released as soon as possible. Because... it's just going to be a war of propaganda... we need to act now, rather than waiting.

"We don't want Shaun and the other guy as well to become political pawns in the battle and that is what is going to happen... Russia are going to use these two guys to their advantage so we need to get Liz Truss and her diplomatic team to speak to the Ukrainian government and get around that table... and negotiate the situation."

He said it's also important to remember the impact this will be having on people here who know the two men, their family and friends, but also on those still serving in the army.

Read more: Workers who stayed behind at Ukraine zoo to help animals 'shot dead by Russians'

"It's resonating in the veteran community and the serving community. There's emotion out there.

"One, because one of our former colleagues has been taken as a prisoner of war but two, what it does is it resonates emotion in individuals about conflicts and serving in conflict areas they've been in... So we need to try and get this dealt with as soon as possible."

A statement's been released by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) where Mr Pinner's family explained how he became involved in the defence of Ukraine.

"Shaun was a well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years. He served in many tours including Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia," it said.

"In 2018 Shaun decided to relocate to Ukraine to use his previous experience and training within the Ukraine military.

"Shaun enjoyed the Ukrainian way of life and considered Ukraine as his adopted country over the last four years. During this time, he met his Ukrainian wife, who is very focused on the humanitarian needs of the country.

"He progressed into the Ukrainian Marines as a proud member of his unit."

"We would like to make it clear he is not a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serving with the Ukrainian Army in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.

"Our family is currently working with the Foreign Office along with the family of Aiden Aslin, who is also being held by the Russian Army to ensure their rights as prisoners of war are upheld according to the Geneva Convention."

His relatives described Mr Pinner as "funny, much-loved, well-intentioned" and said they hoped for a quick resolution to allow the captured men to return to their families.

"Our hearts go out to all those caught up in this horrific conflict."

The FCDO has condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and called on the Kremlin to treat all prisoners of war humanely.

The department has been in contact with the families of Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin to support them.

LBC was shown texts from Mr Pinner sent before the invasion broke out.

The difference between the British Army and Ukrainian army is vast. Tactically the Ukrainian army is moving from old Soviet style to NATO standards. It's also a new army so it's seeing some changes. Equipment wise it's in bad shape.

Old Soviet equipment and vehicles, the guys hold it all together and often have a whip round to maintain equipment.

Basic equipment is largely donated by volunteers, shovels, chainsaws and axes etc.

Pay is getting better but living is cheap here. On operations we get over $1200 per month.

---

Well, Ukraine has had 80,000 Russian troops on its borders for several years. Invasion is nothing new. It's on people's minds but generally people are going about daily business as usual.

It's only recently people have been interested as this conflict previously was named the "forgotten war". Ukrainian is looking towards the west and in 2014 decided to break away from Russian influence. Nobody wants Russia to come.

---

We are prepared as we can, we are dug in and waiting while the world watches. We have no air supremacy, little Navy and we are outgunned.

We have to hold out for as long as we can, people are fighting for their homes and cities. There is a big togetherness here.

---

Gets to about -28 now but this year it's been warmer.

It's hell living in trenches when it's super cold. You live with your water so it doesn't freeze, only go to the toilet in the day, snows 3-4 ft deep, logistics and everything becomes harder. Possibly March if the offensive comes, who knows.

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