Family ‘devastated’ by death sentence handed to British man fighting Russians

The family of a British man handed the death penalty for fighting Russian forces have said they are “devastated”.

Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to do “everything in their power” to secure the release of Shaun Pinner, along with fellow Briton Aiden Aslin, after the pair were condemned to death in what the UK Government has described as a “sham” sentencing.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss discussed efforts to secure their release with her Ukrainian counterpart on Friday, after the judgment by a Russian proxy court.

A statement issued on Saturday by the Foreign Office on behalf of the family of Mr Pinner, 48, said they are “devastated and saddened at the outcome of the illegal show trial”.

They added: “As a Ukrainian resident for over four years and contracted serving marine in the 36th Brigade, of which he is very proud, Shaun should be accorded all the rights of a prisoner of war according to the Geneva Convention and including full independent legal representation.

“We sincerely hope that all parties will co-operate urgently to ensure the safe release or exchange of Shaun. Our family, including his son and Ukrainian wife, love and miss him so much and our hearts go out to all the families involved in this awful situation.

“We respectfully ask for privacy from the media at this difficult time.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, suggested on Friday that negotiations for a possible prisoner swap with Moscow were under way, as it emerged Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had made a surprise visit to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ms Truss said she had spoken with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba “to discuss efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies”.

She tweeted: “The judgment against them is an egregious breach of the Geneva Convention. The UK continues to back Ukraine against Putin’s barbaric invasion.”

In a statement to the Newark Advertiser, a relative of Mr Aslin urged Britain and Ukraine to “do everything in their power to have them returned to us safely, and soon”.

They said Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner “are not, and never were, mercenaries” and should be treated as prisoners of war as they were fighting as part of the Ukrainian army.

The men were convicted of taking action towards violent seizure of power at a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Britain argues that Mr Aslin, from Newark in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner, from Bedfordshire, are legitimate members of the Ukrainian army and should therefore be treated as prisoners of war.

A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted alongside the Britons.

The men were accused of being “mercenaries” after fighting with Ukrainian troops.

Interfax, a Russian news agency, claimed they would be able to appeal against their convictions.

Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner were both members of regular Ukrainian military units fighting in Mariupol, the southern port city which was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the convictions were “guided by the laws of the Donetsk People’s Republic”, the breakaway state controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.

“Because these crimes were committed on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, all the rest is speculation,” he told a press conference.