Two British fighters captured in Ukraine by Russian forces appeared on Russian state TV on Monday and asked to be exchanged for a Ukrainian ally of President Vladimir Putin, who is being held by Ukrainian authorities.
It was unclear how freely the two men – Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin – were able to converse. Both spoke separately after being asked by an unidentified man. The footage was broadcast on state TV channel Rossiya 24.
The two men asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to replace them with pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk was also shown asking to be traded in a video released by Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service via social media.
Medvedchuk, in his appeal to Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy, asked to be replaced by “the defenders of Mariupol and its citizens who are there today and have no opportunity for a safe exit through a humanitarian corridor”.
Medvedchuk is the leader of the Opposition Party – For Life, and a Putin ally who has spent years advocating closer ties between Russia and Ukraine.
Both Pinner and Aslin fought on the Ukrainian side in Mariupol, which is now almost entirely under Russian control, as well as the sprawling Azovstal steelworks, where some Ukrainian fighters remained in hiding.
An unidentified man shown on Russian state TV was seen showing the two Brits a video on his cellphone of Medvedchuk’s wife Oksana making an appeal over the weekend for her husband to be exchanged for the two British nationals.
Appeal to Boris Johnson
Three days after Russia deployed its forces to Ukraine on February 24, the Ukrainian government said Medvedchuk had escaped house arrest. He had been confined to his home since May 2021 on charges of high treason and later aiding terrorism.
The pro-Russian figure, who says Putin is godfather to his daughter, has denied wrongdoing and claimed he is a victim of politically motivated persecution. He was captured by Ukraine last week.
“I understand the situation,” said Pinner, who was wearing a blue hoodie and looked tired and nervous after seeing the video.
“I would like to appeal to the (British) government to send me back home, I would like to see my wife again,” he said.
Pinner made a direct appeal to Johnson, which he said was on his and Aslin’s behalf.
“We are looking to trade me and Aiden Aslin for Mr. Medvedchuk. Obviously, I would really appreciate your help on this matter,” he said, reporting that he spoke some Russian and was treated well.
The unidentified man was then shown talking to Aslin, who was sitting in a chair wearing a T-shirt with the emblem of Ukraine’s far-right Azov battalion.
“I think Boris (Johnson) needs to hear what Oksana (Medvedchuk’s wife) said,” said Aslin, who looked nervous.
“If Boris Johnson really cares as he says about British citizens, then he would help put pressure on Zelensky to do the right thing and return Viktor to his family and return us to our families.”
The British Foreign Office did not immediately comment on the footage, but released a statement made by the Pinner family.
“Our family is currently working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the family of Aiden Aslin, who is also detained by the Russian Army to ensure that their rights as prisoners of war are respected under the Geneva Convention,” the statement said. .
Russia has said it will keep an eye on Medvedchuk’s fate and last week told Ukraine to “be careful” after Kiev captured Putin’s ally and released pictures of him in handcuffs.
Source: CNN Brasil