Two captured British men who fought with Ukrainian forces in Mariupol appeared on Russian state television on Monday and asked to be traded for pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk who is being held by the Ukrainian authorities.
In footage reportedly shown on state broadcaster Rossiya 24, Shaun Pinner addresses the Prime Minister and appears to be asking that he and fellow British POW Aiden Aslin be swapped for Viktor Medvedchuk, who has been detained in Ukraine.
“Hi Mr Boris Johnson,” says the 48-year-old former Royal Anglian soldier, who looks tired in the video.
“I understand that Mr. Medvedchuk has been detained and we are looking to trade myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr. Medvedchuk.
“Obviously, I would really appreciate your help in this matter and the promotion of this agenda.”
He also says he was “well treated” and “fed, watered”.
In a separate clip, Mr Aslin, 28, is seen saying: ‘If Boris Johnson really cares as he says about British citizens, he would help put pressure on (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky to he does the right thing and brings Viktor back to his family and returns us to our families.
Mr Medvedchuk also reportedly asked to be swapped in a video released by Ukrainian intelligence.
Earlier footage appeared to show Mr Pinner saying he was captured in Mariupol while fighting with Ukrainian marines.
He said he had fought in the besieged city for five to six weeks but was now in the separatist region of Donetsk.
Mr Aslin was previously filmed being driven away in handcuffs with a cut on his forehead after surrendering to the Russian army in Mariupol last week.
In a statement released by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Mr Pinner’s family explained how he had become involved in defending Ukraine, which they consider “his adopted country”. .
The statement read: “Shaun was a highly respected soldier within the British Army serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years. He has taken part in numerous tours, notably in Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia.
“In 2018, Shaun decided to move to Ukraine to utilize his previous experience and training in the Ukrainian military.
“Shaun has enjoyed the Ukrainian way of life and has considered Ukraine his adopted country for the past four years. During this time, he met his Ukrainian wife, who is very focused on the country’s humanitarian needs.
“He progressed through the Ukrainian Marines as a proud member of his unit.”
The statement continued: “We would like to clarify that he is neither a volunteer nor a mercenary, but is officially serving in the Ukrainian army in accordance with Ukrainian law.
“Our family is currently working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the family of Aiden Aslin, who is also being held by the Russian military to ensure that their rights as prisoners of war are respected in accordance with the Geneva Convention.”
They described Mr Pinner as ‘funny, much-loved, well-meaning’ 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 statement concluded.
The FCDO has been in contact with the families of Mr. Pinner and Mr. Aslin to support them.
However, the UK’s ability to obtain information and provide consular services on the ground is severely limited due to the conflict.
In another video, Mr Pinner, from Bedfordshire, appears to have been questioned by a Russian journalist about how he was captured.
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He replied, “We were in the Mariupol Industrial Zone.
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, it was decided to leave the factory area, but we weren’t sure where.
“Around four o’clock in the morning, we left the factory.”
There was “not much time to think,” he said in the heavily edited clip.
The Russian journalist then appeared to tell Mr Pinner that his Ukrainian commanders wanted him killed.
Mr Pinner spoke of his fear of being captured in January, telling the Mail on Sunday: ‘I fear for my life. The Russians will treat us differently if we are captured because we are British. It is always in my mind, that I will be captured.
Mr Aslin, from Nottinghamshire, had defended Mariupol with his unit in heavy fighting in recent weeks before having to surrender after 48 days.
“We have no food or ammunition,” read his Twitter account, which was managed by a friend while he was fighting with Ukrainian marines.
Mr Aslin’s grandmother told the PA news agency that a video on Russian TV showing him saying Ukraine was not making “the right decisions” was “propaganda”.
The Telegraph reported that Mr Aslin enlisted in the Ukrainian army in 2018 and had previously fought against the so-called Islamic State in Syria.