Execution of British militants ‘will come back to bite Vladimir Putin’

Vladimir Putin faces international outrage over decision to execute three captured militants (Image: AP/Reuters/EPA)

A friend of a British fighter who was captured by Russian forces while fighting in Ukraine says his death sentence could backfire on Vladimir Putin.

Aiden Aslin, 28, was convicted by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic of working towards a violent seizure of power.

Another Briton, 48-year-old Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim were also convicted after the three were accused of being “mercenaries”.

This comes despite Mr Aslin having both British and Ukrainian citizenship, having moved to Ukraine in 2017 and lawfully joining the country’s Marines.

The Russian state media company RIA Novosti reported that the three are threatened with a firing squad.

Brennan Phillips, an American former soldier who met Mr Aslin in Syria and worked with him in Ukraine, said the verdict was a “provocation”.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Phillips said: “I think it will energize people more than anything.

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Aiden Aslin. British fighter

Aiden Aslin has been fighting in Ukraine for several years after spending time in Syria fighting ISIS

epa10006011 Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint news conference with President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov (not pictured) after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, June 10, 2022. The President of Turkmenistan is in Moscow on an official visit. EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV / POOL

Putin had previously warned that ‘mercenaries’ would be treated differently, but the UK insists the captured Brits were no such thing (Image: EPA)

“Whatever effect you expected from this provocation, I don’t think it will be well received. And they did it as a provocation.”

Mr. Phillips from Tennessee added that “many people expected” that Russia would “choose the most provocative stance they could take” – namely the death sentence.

“I don’t think Sean or Aiden will be sentenced to death or anything,” he said.

“I believe that their captivity among the Russians will be extended a little longer, but I believe with all my heart and am very confident that they will be safely returned to their families.”

The British government has insisted the sentences have no legitimacy and the couple should be treated as prisoners of war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkmenistan's President Serdar Berdymukhamedov June 10, 2022 at the Moscow Kremlin. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Putin met with Turkmenistan’s President Serdar Berdymukhamedov in the Kremlin today (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Image from Shaun Pinner's Facebook page shows Shaun Pinner in February 2021

Shaun Pinner is a former British soldier who joined the Ukrainian military after settling in the country in 2018

Tory MP Bob Seely, who sits on the Special Committee on Foreign Affairs, accused Russia of breaking international law.

“I very much hope they are not killed quickly – they could be killed quickly as a shock value,” said the Isle of Wight MP.

“But if they’re not, as everyone expects, then they’re being held up as a diplomatic tool, and I think the bigger picture here – what’s happening – is that the Russians, as part of the indirect conflict against the increasingly aggressive Baltic republics, against the Poles, against Britain and others close to the Ukrainian government and supporting Ukrainians in the conflict.”

Russia’s Interfax news agency claimed the men could appeal their convictions.

Howard Morrison QC, the UK’s independent adviser on war crimes in Ukraine, said the verdict was likely to have been used for “trial purposes”. He added, “I would hesitate to call it a trial, to be honest.”

“But when it comes to negotiations, it’s difficult to see exactly what the subtext is,” he added.

“Because the British government doesn’t hold prisoners, it’s the Ukrainians who hold the prisoners.”

Mr Morrison said the government’s complaint that the men were prisoners of war who should be treated under the Geneva Conventions was “spot on”.

“There shouldn’t have been a show trial and certainly not the death penalty,” he said.

Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to do “everything in their power” to secure the release of two Britons sentenced to death in a “sham” sentence for fighting Russian forces.

Secretary of State Liz Truss today discussed efforts to free Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner with her Ukrainian counterpart.

A still from footage of the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic shows Britons Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun captured by Russian forces in a courtroom cage in a location designated as Donetsk during a military conflict in Ukraine , Ukraine, in a still from video released June 7, 2022. Video taken June 7, 2022. Supreme Court of the Donetsk People's Republic/Handout via REUTERS TV ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT. RUSSIA OFF. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALE IN RUSSIA

The two Brits were paraded alongside Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim on TV in a court not considered illegitimate outside of Russia and occupied Ukraine (Image: Reuters).

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Turkmenistan's President Serdar Berdymukhamedov in Moscow, Russia, June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia has been trying to recruit mercenaries from Syria to fight for Russia, Pentagon says (Image: Reuters)

Ambassador of Ukraine to Britain Vadym Prystaiko indicated that negotiations for a possible prisoner swap with Moscow were underway as it emerged that Defense Minister Ben Wallace had left for a surprise visit to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A relative of Mr Aslin urged Britain and Ukraine to “do everything in their power to ensure they return to us safely and soon”.

They said Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner, 48, “are not and never were mercenaries” and should be treated as prisoners of war as they fought as part of the Ukrainian army.

Mr Aslin, originally from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner were both members of regular Ukrainian military units who fought in Mariupol.

The southern port city that has been the scene of some of the worst conflicts since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Phillips said Mr Aslin had lived a well-established life in Ukraine after arriving in 2017 and did not go there as a “thrill” to fight.

He said: “He has a Ukrainian fiancé. They have or had a home outside of Mariupol and he was part of the 36th Marine Brigade.

“So, yes, he had a well-established life in Ukraine, Ukrainian citizenship.”

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/10/execution-of-british-fighters-will-come-back-to-bite-vladimir-putin-16808486/ Execution of British militants 'will come back to bite Vladimir Putin'

Justin Scacco

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