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Two Britons captured by Russian troops fighting in Ukraine have appeared in a rebel court in territory occupied by pro-Putin rebels.
Ex-care worker Aiden Aslin, 28, and Royal Anglian Regiment veteran Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured in mid-April while fighting in the besieged port city of Mariupol.
The pair are charged with being mercenaries amid fears that the court, which is not internationally recognised, could pass the death penalty if they are convicted.
Footage has emerged showing the two men appearing in the court alongside a third defendant – Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim.
The video shows Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner, who were both able to stand unaided, speaking only to confirm they are aware of the charges against them and are happy for the case to proceed in the absence of witness evidence, the BBC reports.
Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency said on Sunday that an investigation had found Mr Aslin had taken part in ‘the armed aggression of Ukraine to forcibly seize power in the republic for a reward.’
Shaun Pinner (left) and Aiden Aslin (right), who had been serving in the Ukrainian marines, were captured by Putin’s troops in the city of Mariupol in April
Brit fighter Mr Pinner was paraded on Russian television looking clean-shaven with no visible wounds following his capture
Mr Aslin was also shown in a video on Russian state television after being captured fighting in Mariupol
The announcement from the DPR Prosecutor General’s Office, which was posted to Telegram, said Mr Aslin had been charged with four separate offences: Committing a crime as part of a criminal group; forcible seizure of power or forcible retention of power; being a mercenary; and the promotion of training in terrorist activities.
And separatist president Denis Pushilin on Monday claimed ‘the crimes they committed were monstrous’, according to separatist news agency DAN.
It comes after a prosecutor for the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic last month smirked as he informed a TV crew that the British hostages could be executed.
Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner were members of regular Ukrainian military units in Mariupol.
The family of Mr Aslin today said they are working with the Foreign Office and Ukrainian government to get him home.
In a statement released through the Foreign Office, they described him as a ‘much-loved man and very much missed’.
They continued: ‘We, the family of Aiden Aslin, wish to ask for privacy at this time from the media.
‘This is a very sensitive and emotional time for our family, and we would like to say thank you to all that have supported us.
‘We are currently working with the Ukrainian government and the Foreign Office to try and bring Aiden home. Aiden is a much-loved man and very much missed, and we hope that he will be released very soon.”
Mr Aslin (pictured left) moved to Ukraine after falling for his now-wife Diane (pictured right), who is originally from the city of Mykolaiv – found about 260 miles west of Mariupol, along the coast
Shaun Pinner, 48, was serving as a Marine in Ukraine, defending the key strategic port of Mariupol
Dominic Raab has said the Foreign Office will ‘make all the representations’ on Mr Aslin’s behalf.
Speaking on Monday, he told LBC: ‘In relation to that case, I don’t know all the details, but of course we would expect the laws of armed conflict to be respected, and we will make sure that we will make all the representations.
‘I know the Foreign Office will be looking at making sure all those representations are made.’
A former care worker, Mr Aslin moved to Ukraine after falling for his now-wife Diane, who is originally from the city of Mykolaiv – found about 260 miles west of Mariupol, along the coast.
He had previously travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight for the Kurds in a western-backed alliance against ISIS, and he made headlines on his return to the UK in 2016 when he was arrested and charged with terrorism offences. All charges were later dropped.
Aslin then returned to Syria in 2017 to help in the fight to re-take the city of Raqqa, which had been the de-facto capital of ISIS’s terror-state.
After being arrested in the UK a second time trying to return from Syria via Greece, Aslin moved to Ukraine after falling for Diane.
Having heard about the fight against Russia in Donbas from Ukrainian volunteers in Syria, he was persuaded to join the military and in 2018 signed up as a marine.
The family of Mr Pinner, meanwhile, have previously said he was a ‘well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years’.
This included tours to Northern Ireland and with the UN in Bosnia.
He decided to relocate to Ukraine in 2018 to use his previous experience and training within the Ukraine Military. During this time he met his Ukrainian wife.
Andrew Hill, 35, was also captured and is being held by the authorities in the so-called DPR.