Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to hold talks with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba after Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced to death by pro-Russian officials in a “disgusting show trial”.
Photo: TV Zvezda/east2west news)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to hold talks with her Ukrainian counterpart today after two Britons fighting in Mariupol were sentenced to death by pro-Russian officials in a “disgusting Soviet-era show trial”.
The cabinet minister is set to hold a phone call with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, after she condemned the “sham” verdict against Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner.
The meeting is understood to have been in the diary for a few days, but the case is being raised.
But so far the Foreign Secretary has refused to hold direct talks with Russia – as requested by one of the two men, local MP Robert Jenrick – because British officials believe it would lend credibility to Russia’s “bogus” claims that the men are mercenaries.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been convicted by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic of working towards a violent seizure of power.
In addition to Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner, a third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted.
The UK claims that the men, as members of the Ukrainian army, are prisoners of war and should therefore be protected under international law.
Britain believes the men are being exploited for Russia’s political ends, amid speculation the case could prompt Moscow to push for a prisoner swap.
Robert Jenrick, Tory MP for one of the two men, said: “This disgusting Soviet-era show trial is the latest reminder of the depravity of Putin’s regime.”
Ms Truss said yesterday: “I strongly condemn the sentencing of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, who were being held by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine.
“They are prisoners of war. This is a bogus judgment without any legitimacy.
“My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are working with the Ukrainian government on the detention of British nationals.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political ends. They are entitled to combatant immunity and should not be prosecuted for participating in hostilities.”
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 was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Jenrick, who represents the Newark constituency where Mr Aslin lived, called for the Russian Ambassador to Britain to be summoned to the Foreign Office.
He said it was “a fraudulent show trial, we shouldn’t give it any credibility,” adding: “They are not mercenaries, they are British citizens who, prior to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, chose Ukraine for personal reasons.” to join the army.”
It comes after a friend of Mr Aslin said the death sentences would “revive” those who still resist Russia’s advances.
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.
“Whatever effect you expected from this provocation, I don’t think it will be well received. And they did it as a provocation.”
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,” the Isle of Wight MP told the BBC.
“But if they’re not, as everyone expects, then they’re being held as a diplomatic tool, and I think the bigger picture here – what’s happening – is that the Russians are becoming increasingly aggressive as part of the indirect conflict against the Baltic republics, against the Poles, against Britain and others close to the Ukrainian government and supporting the Ukrainians in the conflict.”
A spokesman for No 10 said: “We are obviously very concerned about this. We have said time and time again that prisoners of war should not be exploited for political purposes.
“Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity and should not be prosecuted for taking part in hostilities.
“Therefore we will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities to try to secure the release of all British nationals who have served in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and are being held as prisoners of war.”
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