Death row UK fighter in Donbass warns family ‘time running out’
British national Aiden Aslin, who was captured in the midst of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, has told his family that his death sentence will likely be carried out.
Earlier this month, the court in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) sentenced Aslin, his compatriot Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim to death. The three men, who fought on the Ukrainian side, were found guilty of mercenarism, terrorist offenses and attempting to overthrow the government of the republic.
Aslin’s family told the BBC on Wednesday that he called them on the phone and said he had been warned by DPR representatives that his “time is running out.”
“There are no words; just no words. It’s got to be everyone’s worst nightmare to have a member of your family threatened in this way,” the fighter’s grandmother, Pamela Hall, said.
She told the outlet Aslin was “extremely upset” while talking to his mother. “The bottom line is Aiden has said the DPR has told him nobody from the UK has made contact, and that he will be executed,” she said.
“I have to believe what Aiden has said to us, that if the DPR don’t get some response then they will execute him. Obviously, I hope that isn't true,” Hall added.
She also said she believed “contact should be made between the UK and Russia” regarding her grandson’s fate.
British authorities approached the Kremlin about Aslin and Pinner earlier this week. But, according to Russian ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin, the message from London was “written in extremely arrogant, instructive terms. It doesn’t make us want to cooperate on these issues.”
Moscow insists London should talk directly to the Donetsk People’s Republic about its citizens, but the UK has been reluctant to do so as it doesn’t recognize the DPR’s independence.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who says that Aslin and Pinner should be treated as POWs, not mercenaries, has called their trial in Donetsk a “sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy.”
The UK fighters’ hopes to be released as part of a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine have been shattered by the DPR’s head, Denis Pushilin. The official said last week that he saw no grounds to pardon the foreigners, who “came to Ukraine to kill civilians for money.”
In his interview with RT earlier this month, Aslin revealed that he felt abandoned by both London and Kiev, saying that all of his attempts to contact the Ukrainian authorities from captivity have been in vain.
The 28-year-old claimed that he regretted becoming “a political pawn in the military system.” He also said that the Kiev government had the chance to end the conflict with Russia, “but they chose not to, mainly because I think money was involved.”
The DPR declared independence from Ukraine, together with the neighboring Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), back in 2014. Russia recognized the two republics as independent states before the launch of its military operation in Ukraine in late February.
According to the DPR’s laws, Aslin, Pinner, and Brahim can still appeal their death sentence or plead for clemency. But if they fail, the trio will face execution by a firing squad.
Brahim’s lawyer said on Wednesday that they were planning to file such an appeal next week.