Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner face death by firing squad after they were convicted of seizing power at a show trial in Kremlin-backed Donetsk
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The friend of a British soldier captured by Russian forces fighting for Ukraine says his death sentence will “empower” those who still oppose Vladimir Putin’s forces.
28-year-old Aiden Aslin was convicted at a show trial in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic of acts of violent seizure of power.
Another Briton, 48-year-old Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim were also convicted after all three were accused of being “mercenaries” for fighting with Ukrainian troops.
Russia’s state media outlet RIA Novosti reported that the trio could face 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”.
TV Zvezda/east2west news)
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Phillips said: “I think it will energize people more than anything.
“Whatever effect you were hoping for 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, but I believe with all my heart and I 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.
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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, told the broadcaster the verdict was likely used for “trial purposes”.
He said: “I would honestly hesitate to call it a trial.
“Judges must be fully independent and act in accordance with due process and the requirements of international and national law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Geneva Conventions.
“I see little evidence of any of that happening.”
Asked whether the verdict was a negotiation trick, Mr Morrison said: “Well, it may well be. I mean, the problem is you’re not sure.
“It is very unlikely that it will be easy. There will almost certainly be a subtext somewhere, and there’s a good chance it’s for negotiation purposes.
“In a way I hope so because these men are under the death penalty and the last thing you want is for that to be implemented.
“But when it comes to negotiations, it’s difficult to see exactly what the subtext is – 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.
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 worst conflicts since Vladimir 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 fiancée. 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.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/brits-death-sentence-fighting-russia-27194909 Britain's death sentence for fighting Russia will "enliven" others, says a friend