Russia may seek to use two Britons facing the death penalty in a prisoner swap against Viktor Medvedchuk, nicknamed the Prince of Darkness and allegedly an ally of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine
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Russia may be planning to use two death row British militants as negotiating tools with Vladimir Putin, who is pushing for a prisoner swap to bring a close friend home, sources say.
According to Russian state media, a Russian-backed court in the People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR) handed down death sentences on Thursday for Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Moroccan-born Brahim Saadoun.
They all pleaded guilty to “having undergone training for the purpose of terrorist activities,” according to the court.
The three men said they would appeal the decision, which they have one month to do.
Pavel Kosovan, one of the two British lawyers, said they would “probably seek a pardon,” which would pave the way for a prisoner swap, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner, 48, were arrested in April while fighting in Ukraine before appearing in court in separatist Donetsk DPR.
The trial reportedly lasted just three days.
Both men had served in the Ukrainian army for several years and were captured defending the port city of Mariupol.
Following their capture, Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner appeared in videos in April asking to take part in a prisoner swap in exchange for pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who was being held by Ukraine.
Medvedchuk has said that Putin is his daughter’s godfather and he refers to him as a “personal friend”.
Mr Aslin told a Russian TV reporter after his arrest: “If Boris Johnson really cares about British citizens like he says he would help to pressure Zelensky to do the right thing and to give Viktor to his family and to us to bring back to our families.”
Medvedchuk – also known as the Prince of Darkness – escaped house arrest before going AWOL just three days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The 67-year-old is the leader of Ukraine’s main opposition party, the opposition Platform for Life, and has been described as the Russian president’s right-hand man across the border.
He was arrested by Ukrainian authorities last year after a treason case was opened against him, with Medvedchuk denying any wrongdoing.
Ukrainian security services said in an online post after he was arrested again in April: “You can be a pro-Russian politician and work for the aggressor state for years. You may have been hiding from justice lately.
SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
“You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform for camouflage.
“But will it help you escape punishment? Not at all! Shackles await you, and the same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you.”
The Post quoted Ivan Bakanov, the intelligence chief, as saying his agents “conducted a lightning-fast and dangerous multi-level special operation” to arrest Medvedchuk, but gave no details.
The former lawyer and oligarch has been branded the “Gray Cardinal” and “Prince of Darkness” for his influence in business and politics.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities said Medvedchuk would appear in court soon to face charges of treason, the reported Daily Telegraph.
He is accused of taking national resources on behalf of Russia and spying on Ukraine’s military, with charges carrying a possible 15-year prison sentence.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/vladimir-putin-could-use-brits-27195098 Vladimir Putin 'could use British death sentences to press for his ally's release' - World News