A court in Russian-controlled east Ukraine sentenced to death two British men fighting for Ukraine, on charges of “terrorism” after a days-long process that observers and war experts said was a “show trial.”
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were convicted of taking action toward a violent seizure of power. So too was Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim. The three were accused of being “mercenaries” fighting with Ukrainian troops.
Both Aslin and Pinner are not foreign legion volunteers, but rather, have signed legal, long-term contracts several years ago with Ukraine’s defense military. Both have lived in Ukraine for years, and have been a part of the Ukrainian military for years prior to Russia’s invasion.
Aslin has Ukrainian citizenship. He moved to Ukraine in 2018, where he met his fiancé and obtained citizenship, which is held alongside British citizenship. He enlisted in the Ukrainian marines in 2018 and has remained in the unit for nearly four years.
Pinner has also been in Ukraine for years, since 2014, when he visited Kyiv after the pro-Europe Maidan revolution. He then joined a Ukrainian brigade. He moved to Ukraine four years ago and lived there with his wife in Mariupol. He too is a part of the Marine brigade.
Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti said that all three are set to face a firing squad.
Observers say that the courtroom process was intended to imitate the war crimes trial of Russian soldiers, which is taking place in Kyiv.
Both Brits said they were serving in the Ukrainian marines, which would make them active-duty soldiers who should be protected by the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war. But Russian state media said they are mercenaries, and the court also charged them with such.
British officials have immediately condemned the ruling. UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said she utterly condemns the sentencing and said the two Brits are prisoners of war. She called it a “sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy.”
The British government believes Russia is using the process to put pressure on the UK and may seek a prisoner exchange for Russian soldiers convicted of murder and other war crimes.
Amnesty International UK’s crisis response manager Kristyan Benedict said the decision was “grotesque,” and that the trial had the appearance of a “show trial” designed to exert pressure on the UK.
“These sentences look like they’re intended to fire a warning shot to the UK over its support for Ukraine in this brutal war,” Benedict said.