Two British fighters captured in Ukraine by Russian forces have been paraded on Russian state tv asking Boris Johnson to assist free them, in a dramatic escalation of the propaganda struggle.
Footage confirmed Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin calling on the British prime minister to assist free them in change for Ukraine releasing the pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk.
It was unclear how freely the 2 males had been capable of discuss within the video, which was aired on the Rossiya 24 state TV channel on Monday.
At the identical time as Russia broadcast footage of the 2 British males, Ukraine’s overseas intelligence service launched video of Medvedchuk, nicknamed the “dark prince” of Ukrainian politics, asking to be swapped too.
In his enchantment to the Russian and Ukrainian leaders, Vladimir Putin and Volodymr Zelenskiy, Medvedchuk requested to be exchanged for the defenders of the besieged metropolis of Mariupol – the place Pinner and Aslin had been based mostly earlier than their seize – and that any civilians be allowed to depart.
The footage marks a critical escalation of the propaganda struggle between Russia and Ukraine and is the primary time a prisoner swap has been prompt publicly between the 2 international locations. The central involvement of two British fighters will heap stress on Johnson to intervene.
The UK Foreign Office (FCDO) has been contacted for remark. The FCDO has been offering assist to the boys’s households in current days however has restricted capacity to assemble info or give consular assist on the bottom in Ukraine.
Pinner, 48, appeared exhausted within the newest closely edited footage launched on Russian tv. In a halting voice, he mentioned to the digital camera: “Mr Boris Johnson. Obviously I’m Shaun Pinner.
“A lot’s gone on over the last five or six weeks that I’m not fully aware of. Obviously I understand that Mr Medvedchuk has been detained and we look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr Medvedchuk.
“Obviously I would really appreciate your help in this matter and pushing this agenda. Myself I’ve been treated well. Fully understand the situation that I’m in. We’ve been fed, watered, and that’s all I can really say but I beg on my behalf and Aiden Aslin’s behalf for help us in an exchange for Mr Medvedchuk.”
The unidentified interviewer was then proven individually chatting with Aslin, who was sat on a chair carrying a T-shirt bearing the symbol of Ukraine’s far-right Azov battalion. “I think that Boris needs to listen to what Oksana [Medvedchuk’s wife] has said,” mentioned Aslin, who additionally appeared nervous. “If Boris Johnson really does care about British citizens like he says he does then he will help.”
Medvedchuk is a key ally of Putin. He had been positioned below home arrest final yr to face treason and terrorism financing costs, which he denies.
He escaped a couple of days after the Russian invasion started in February, however was later captured by Ukraine.
In his video, printed on Facebook by Ukraine’s SBU safety service, Medvedchuk mentioned he was a making a “plea for the Ukrainian side to exchange me for the defenders of Mariupol and its citizens who are there today have no opportunity for a safe exit through a humanitarian corridor”.
Pinner, a former soldier within the Royal Anglian Regiment, moved to Ukraine 4 years in the past and considers it his adopted nation, his household mentioned in an announcement on Monday.
They mentioned Pinner was a well-respected soldier within the British military for a few years and described him as “funny, much-loved, well-intentioned”.
They added: “In 2018 Shaun decided to relocate to Ukraine to use his previous experience and training within the Ukraine military.
“Shaun enjoyed the Ukrainian way of life and considered Ukraine as his adopted country over the last four years. During this time, he met his Ukrainian wife, who is very focused on the humanitarian needs of the country. He progressed into the Ukrainian marines as a proud member of his unit.”
The assertion continued: “We would like to make it clear he is not a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serving with the Ukrainian army in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.
“Our family is currently working with the Foreign Office along with the family of Aiden Aslin, who is also being held by the Russian army to ensure their rights as prisoners of war are upheld according to the Geneva convention.”
Pinner’s household mentioned they hoped for a fast decision to permit the captured males to return to their households. “Our hearts go out to all those caught up in this horrific conflict.”