'I pray our warriors can endure this': Wife of captured Brit facing death penalty slams 'absurd trial'

10 June 2022, 00:17 | Updated: 10 June 2022, 21:51

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been sentenced to death by 'firing squad'
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been sentenced to death by 'firing squad'. Picture: Sky News/Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The wife of one of the captured British fighters sentenced to death by Russia has slammed the 'absurd and cynical trial', warning that Putin's propaganda will not end any time soon.

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Aiden Aslin, 28, from Nottinghamshire, Shaun Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, and a third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim were all sentenced to death in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine, the Russian-owned RIA Novosti reported on Thursday.

They were found guilty of "committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the Donetsk People's Republic" in a court that is not internationally recognised.

RIA Novosti said the three are set to face a firing squad.

Larysa Pinner - Shaun Pinner's wife and a Ukrainian native - said her husband was a "warrior" and warned that the propaganda surrounding his sentencing would be dragged out by Russia.

She said in a Facebook post: "We all understand that Russian propaganda uses this case to the fullest, and this circus will go on for a long time."

She added: "The International Committee of the Red Cross is aware, they will even more actively demand access to the guys (yet Russia has not given permission, which is expected). 

"I still pray that our Warriors can endure all of this!"

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It comes after the Prime Minister ordered ministers to do "everything in their power" to secure the release of the fighters, who were sentenced to death following a show trial.

Although so far the government has not summoned the Russian Ambassador and it is unclear if the Prime Minister has spoken the families of either man.

On Friday, Ms Truss held a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba "reiterating her concern and discussing next steps".

She tweeted: "Spoke with Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba to discuss efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies. The judgment against them is an egregious breach of the Geneva convention."

Earlier it emerged the two men, who were captured fighting in Ukraine, had been forced to call their families back home and plea for their lives.

They had to make scripted phone calls to relatives and British journalists by pro-Russian fighters who rule the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, an entity only recognised by Russia as a state.

The Sun said both men made effectively the same statement in which they said they faced the death penalty or 20 years behind bars.

The paper reported it had been called seven times by the pair since April 25.

Downing Street said the UK Government was "deeply concerned" following the sentences.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister was appalled at the sentencing of these men. He has been following the case closely and has asked ministers to do everything in their power to try and reunite them with their families as soon as we can.

"We completely condemn the sham sentencing of these men to death. There's no justification at all for this breach of the protection they're entitled to."

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the death sentences as a "sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy".

The trio have a month to appeal the sentence, according to Interfax, another Russian news agency.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said: "Currently they are guided by the laws of the Donetsk People's Republic.

"Because these crimes were committed on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic, all the rest is speculation.

"I will not comment on the Donetsk People's Republic judiciary."

A statement by Russia's foreign ministry said the UK should appeal against the sentence with the unrecognised republic, describing the UK's response to a death sentence against two Britons as "often hysterical".

The chair of the panel of judges Alexander Nikulin said the sentence was fair, saying the court had been guided by "the main, inviolable principle of justice", according to Interfax.

Mr Aslin is one of two Brits sentenced to death by Russia
Mr Aslin is one of two Brits sentenced to death by Russia. Picture: Twitter @cossackgundi

Shaun's mother, Denise Price, said she was called and believed the men are being used as propaganda.

The devastated family of Mr Aslin demanded on Thursday that he be "treated with respect" as neither he or Mr Pinner are actually "mercenaries".

A statement read: "We've heard the news from Donetsk and need some time to take everything in.

"We love Aiden with all our hearts. He and Shaun, as members of Ukrainian armed forces, should be treated with respect just like any other prisoners of war.

"They are not, and never were, mercenaries.

"We hope that this sentence will be overturned and beseech the government's of the UK and Ukraine to do everything in their power to have them returned to us safely, and soon.

"We can only imagine what they are going through right now.

"This is a very upsetting development and we ask that our privacy is respected at this time."

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Mr Aslin's brother reacted to the decision with shock, saying his family needed time to comprehend the situation.

"We've just been informed ourselves, currently my mum is in talks with the Foreign Office, but we are requesting that we have time to process this information privately due to how sensitive it is," he said, according to MailOnline.

Mr Pinner is a "much-loved" husband and father
Mr Pinner is a "much-loved" husband and father. Picture: LBC

Mr Aslin moved to Ukraine in 2018, became engaged to a Ukrainian and joined the military.

A number of photos and videos of him have been released on Russian TV since his capture, in which he appears injured.

His family previously shared an emotional appeal expressing their hopes for his return to the UK.

"We, the family of Aiden Aslin, wish to ask for privacy at this time from the media," the family said in a written statement on Tuesday.

"This is a very sensitive and emotional time for our family, and we would like to say thank you to all that have supported us.

"We are currently working with the Ukrainian government and the Foreign Office to try and bring Aiden home.

"Aiden is a much-loved man and very much missed, and we hope that he will be released very soon."

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Mr Pinner was in the British Army before he moved to Ukraine four years ago.

He is married to a Ukrainian.

His family previously said he is a "much-loved, well-intentioned husband, son, father, brother and friend".

Russian state media said yesterday Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner could face up to 20 years behind bars after they were said to have admitted "training in order to carry out terrorist activities".

In footage shared by Ria Novosti on social media on Wednesday, a translator can be heard asking Mr Aslin if he would "plead guilty" to an offence, to which he replied: "Yes."

The video appeared to show the two Britons in the dock in the pro-Russian territory's supreme court alongside Mr Brahim, a Moroccan national.

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Mr Aslin's family's local MP Robert Jenrick said Putin could not "treat British citizens like this and get away with it" and called for the Russian Ambassador to be summoned to the Foreign Office.

"This disgusting Soviet-era style show trial is the latest reminder of the depravity of Putin's regime," said the Newark MP.

"Russia should be clear, they cannot treat British citizens like this and get away with it.

"Contrary to the Kremlin's propaganda, Aiden Aslin is not a mercenary.

Read more: British fighter in Ukraine faces death penalty after capture by Russian forces

"He has been living in Ukraine and serving in its armed forces before Russia's illegal invasion and as a prisoner of war is entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention.

"The Russian ambassador should be summoned to the Foreign Office to account for this most egregious breach of the Geneva Convention.

"Aiden must be released as soon as practicable."

A No 10 spokesman said: "We are obviously deeply concerned by this.

"We have said continually that prisoners of war shouldn't be exploited for political purposes.

"You will know that under the Geneva Convention prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.

"So we will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities to try and secure the release of any British nationals who were serving in the Ukrainian armed forces and who are being held as prisoners of war."