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

18 April 2022, 13:11 | Updated: 18 April 2022, 19:34

Both Brits were shown on Russian TV
Both Brits were shown on Russian TV. Picture: Alamy/Social media

By Will Taylor

Two Brits who were captured in the last stand for Mariupol have appeared on Russian state TV, asking to be swapped for a pro-Russian politician held by Ukraine.

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Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin were both detained during the siege for the devastated city as they fought for its defence against Putin's army.

They have now been shown on Russian TV – and it was unclear if they were under duress – asking to be exchanged for Viktor Medvedchuk, who asked to be swapped on Monday in a video released by Ukrainian authorities that detained him.

The Brits were shown a video of Oksana, Mr Medvedchuk's wife, asking for them to be swapped for him.

"I understand the situation,” Mr Pinner said in a Reuters translation.

"I'd like to appeal to the government to send me back home, I'd like to see my wife again," he said.

He added: "We look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr Medvedchuk. Obviously I would really appreciate your help in this matter."

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"I think that Boris needs to listen to what Oksana has said," said Aslin, who also looked nervous.

"If Boris Johnson really does care about British citizens like he says he does then he will help."

Mr Pinner's family have pleaded for him to be treated under the Geneva Convention.

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Footage of Shaun Pinner was published after being detained during the siege of Mariupol, the site of fierce fighting where Ukrainian troops are mounting a last stand in the ruins of the city.

Russians branded him an "English mercenary" on social media, threatening "mercenaries" with death, while his family pointed out that he is a serving member of Ukraine's military.

In a statement released through the Foreign Office, the 48-year-old's family said: "Shaun was a well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years.

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"He served in many tours including Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia.

"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.

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

The statement added: "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."

Mr Aslin, 27, a British former care worker, had also joined the Ukrainian military and was captured during the defence of Mariupol. He was pictured looking bruised, with one eye barely open, after his capture.

In a different clip posted to social media, Mr Pinner appears wearing a blue hoody.

He said in the video: "I'm Shaun Pinner, I am a citizen of the UK, I was captured in Mariupol.

"I am part of the 36 Brigade First Battalion Ukrainian Marines.

"I was fighting in Mariupol for five-six weeks and now I'm in Donetsk People's Republic," he added, referring to a breakaway Russian-backed region in eastern Ukraine.

The clip was posted to Twitter with the caption: "Another mercenary was caught in Mariupol.

"Shaun Pinner is an English mercenary. He says that he no longer needs the war and he wants to go home. He won't make it home.

"Captured Ukrainian soldiers testify about the atrocities of foreign mercenaries. And after the trial, they face the death penalty."

Mr Pinner was facing interrogation by a body called the Russian Investigative Committee.

The Foreign Office is working with the families of both captured Brits but its ability to help has been hampered by the war.

Mariupol can no longer be considered to exist, Ukraine's foreign minister warned after the city spent weeks under sustained Russian bombardment.

Its defenders have refused to surrender the city, bogging down invading troops in a bloody fight for the city.

Securing it would allow Moscow to claim a victory in a campaign that saw it humiliatingly retreat from its attempt to drive to the capital Kyiv and the loss of its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.