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The Ukrainian wife of British prisoner of war Aiden Aslin is moving to Britain to be with his family, MailOnline can reveal.
Diane Aslin, who is currently in Hungary and has been pictured for the first time here, is set to move close to her mother-in-law Angela Wood in Newark, Nottinghamshire.
Her move comes after Aiden was seen Monday in a Russian propaganda video making a desperate plea to be swapped for another prisoner so he can go home, after he was captured last week by Russian forces while defending Mariupol.
In the video, Mr Aslin, 28, was taunted by British journalist Graham Phillips with the death penalty – the sentence handed to Russian prisoners found guilty of being a mercenary in the Donetsk region.
The captured Briton says in the footage: ‘Diane, my wife, I want you to know, I love you. I hope the British Government is able to push this prisoner exchange through so I can return to you and we can build our life in Britain.’
Today Aslin’s father, Andy Wood, said that Diane was hoping to travel to the East Midlands soon from Eastern Europe. He also revealed that the family had been in direct touch with relatives of Ukrainian pro-Russia politician Viktor Medvedchuk who they believe could be involved in a prisoner swap for the British PoWs.
Diane Aslin (pictured right with husband Aiden Aslin, who is being held as a prisoner of war by Russian forces) who is currently in Hungary and has been pictured for the first time here, is set to move in with her mother-in-law Angela Wood in Newark, Nottinghamshire
Mr Aslin, 28, was taunted by British journalist Graham Phillips with the death penalty – the sentence handed to Russian prisoners found guilty of being a mercenary in the Donetsk region – in a video released by Russia (pictured)
Talking about Diane, Mr Wood said: ‘She is currently in Hungary, exactly whereabouts I don’t know, but she fled Ukraine pretty much when the invasion happened.
‘She is safe but the plan is now for her to fly to the UK soon and set up home here.
‘I think a property is being made available for Diane while we await further news from Aiden. He has stated his wish on the video clip this morning for him and Diane to build a life in Britain.
‘There’s nothing I want more than to have him home,’ he added.
Aslin has been linked to a prisoner swap involving Vladimir Putin’s ally Viktor Medvedchuk – a pro-Russian Ukrainian business tycoon who is being held by the Kyiv regime. He was detained last week when trying to flee Ukraine across the border.
Mr Wood said he was contacted by Medvedchuk’s son Bogdan Marchenko over the weekend asking him to help secure a prisoner swap.
In a WhatsApp message, Mr Marchenko forwarded him a link to a YouTube video in which his mother, Oksana Marchenko, appeals for the exchange to happen.
Mr Marchenko told Mr Wood: ‘I am extremely sorry to hear about the situation concerning Aiden and I truly want the circumstances to resolve as effectively and quickly as possible. I hope a solution can be made. Stay strong.’
It is believed that Aslin was captured by Russian forces last week while defending the besieged port city of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, along with another British man – Shaun Pinner, 48.
Aslin moved to Ukraine after falling for Diane, who is originally from the city of Mykolaiv – found about 260 miles west of Mariupol, along the coast.
Aslin and Pinner were paraded on Russian state television on Monday, where they asked UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene and ensure they were exchanged for Medvedchuk. Aslin was taunted by Graham Phillips with the death penalty.
Graham Phillips (pictured) formerly worked for Russian ‘propaganda channel’ RT and Defence Ministry television outlet Zvezda. In the video, Phillips taunted Mr Aslin: ‘It is a death penalty [for being a mercenary]. Can you give me a reason as to why that shouldn’t apply to you?’
Regarding the latest video released by Russia of his son, Mr Wood said: ‘It looks to me that Aiden is being made to say things under duress. He’s being used for propaganda. It’s not how he normally speaks.
‘How another ‘Nottingham Lad’ as this Graham Phillips likes to be known can do that is beyond me. I’d love to know a bit more about him.
‘The only relief is that Aiden is alive and looks to be relatively clean and well-looked after. There’s no more obvious signs of violence that I can see,’ Mr Wood added.
Phillips formerly worked for Russian ‘propaganda channel’ RT and Defence Ministry television outlet Zvezda. In the video, Phillips said: ‘It is a death penalty [for being a mercenary]. Can you give me a reason as to why that shouldn’t apply to you?’
Aslin responded: ‘I can’t think of any good logical reason other than to spare my life and exchange it for someone that’s in Ukrainian captivity that could return to their family. I think that would be one of the good reasons to keep me and exchange me for someone such as Viktor Medvedchuk so he can return to his family.’
Russian state media also warned that Pinner and Aslin could face show trials and years-long prison sentences unless Mr Johnson brokers an exchange for Medvedchuk.
However, release of the video came the day before a senior minister said the UK will not ‘help Russia’ with swapping a Kremlin crony for Britons Aslin and Pinner.
Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia carried out a prisoner exchange on Tuesday, with Kyiv receiving PoWs – 60 soldiers and 16 civilians – in the swap.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed the trade, saying that it included 10 Ukrainian offers. It was the fifth PoW exchange since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, she added.
Vereshchuk, who is in charge of negotiating prisoner swaps, said on April 11 that in total some 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were being held in Russia and by pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
Ukraine held around 600 Russian military prisoners of war and no civilians as of April 4, according to Vereshchuk.
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 last week. The pair could now face years in a Russian prison
Pinner and Aslin were dragged on state TV to ask Boris Johnson to intervene with President Volodymyr Zelensky to ensure a prisoner swap for Kremlin ally Viktor Medvedchuk (pictured)
Medvedchuk – known both as the ‘prince of darkness’ and Putin’s ‘grey cardinal’ – is one of Ukraine’s richest men and the Russian strongman’s closest political ally in the country, having helped exert Kremlin pressure in influential circles in Kyiv.
The tycoon – worth an estimated £480million – was re-arrested in Kyiv last week while allegedly trying to flee the country, having escaped from house arrest during the early days of the war. He has previously been charged with high treason in Ukraine, accused of trying to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea and hand Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.
Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said the UK would ‘not help’ Russia with a prisoner swap.
Asked on Sky News whether a possible swap was something the UK government would get involved with, Lewis said: ‘We’re actually going through the process of sanctioning people who are close to Putin regime, we’re not going to be looking at how we can help Russia.’
Lewis said he did not want to comment on the specific situation of Pinner and Aslin, who had been serving in the Ukrainian marines before being captured by Putin’s troops in the city of Mariupol last week.
‘We always have responsibility for British citizens, which we take seriously. We’ve got to get the balance right in Ukraine and that’s why I say to anybody: do not travel illegally to Ukraine,’ Lewis said.
The UK’s Foreign Enlistment Act blocks citizens from joining foreign militaries fighting countries at peace with Britain, and the government’s foreign secretary and defence minister have warned against Britons fighting in Ukraine after the war began in late February.
An unidentified man showed Pinner a video of Viktor Medvedchuk’s wife begging for his release, before Pinner appealed to Boris Johnson to facilitate the swap
Pinner and Aslin spoke on video after being prompted by an unidentified man who showed them the footage of Medvedchuk’s wife – Oksana – begging for his freedom, and were almost certainly speaking under duress. Pictured: The footage the British prisoners were shown
In news bulletins, Russia’s state channels made clear Aslin and Pinner were seen as ‘mercenaries’ and not as serving members of Ukraine’s naval infantry.
‘Aiden and Shaun are well aware of how uncertain their future is. Mercenaries may face trial. It is unknown when they will return to their homeland,’ warned state broadcaster Rossiya 1.
Nikolai Starikov, a Russian writer and political activist, called for the British men to be brought to Moscow and put on trial. It would be inevitably seen as a show trial.
‘As for the British prisoners of war, they should be put on trial,’ he demanded on Rossiya 1.
‘They should be tried in open court, maybe in Mariupol, maybe in Donetsk.
‘Maybe in Kyiv, but to me Moscow is the right place for it now.
‘So they should be tried openly, they should be tried in Moscow.
‘Get the verdict, and only after that we start some dialogue about what their future fate will be.’
Channel 1 – the country’s largest TV station – told viewers: ‘The two British mercenaries, who surrendered in Mariupol along with hundreds of Ukrainian troops, called on their Prime Minister Boris Johnson to influence Volodymyr Zelensky to exchange them for opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk.’
The news bulletins emphasised the precarious position of the pair in captivity in Russia, even though it was claimed they were being well cared for and had ‘even’ been allowed to call home.
‘Not a single army in the world takes mercenaries prisoner in battle. They are not covered by the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, so they can be said to be lucky,’ reported Channel 1.
In news bulletins, Russia’s state channels made clear Pinner (centre right) and Aslin (centre left) were seen as ‘mercenaries’ and not as serving members of Ukraine’s naval infantry
Rossiya 1 said: ‘Legally, they are not subject to the Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of prisoners of war, since they are mercenaries who signed a contract to fight for money.
‘But both Britons admit they are being treated correctly and humanely.’
The men are being used to echo Russian playbook about the Nazis in Ukraine.
Both ‘were shocked by the attitude of the Ukrainian military and the Nazis from the Azov [unit] to the civilian population’, said Channel 1.
‘Aiden Aslin is well aware that Kyiv has been violating peace agreements for eight years and killing Donbas civilians with impunity.’
Born: 1974, Bedfordshire
Worked as: A British Army veteran, having served for years in the Royal Anglian regiment
Combat experience: Fought ‘many’ tours including in northern Ireland, according to his family, who said he also served with United Nations missions in Bosnia
Journey to Ukraine: Pinner moved to Ukraine in 2018 which he made his ‘adopted home’ and decided to put his military training to use fighting Russian-backed rebels in the country’s eastern Donbas
He became engaged to a Ukrainian woman and worked his way into the marines, where he had been serving for the last two years
Pinner’s three-year contract with the marines was due to end at the end of this year, his family said, when he wanted to become a humanitarian worker in the country
Pinner was helping to defend the frontlines in Donbas when Putin’s invasion began on February 24
His unit of marines ended up hooking up with the Azov Battalion – members of the national guard with links to neo-Nazis – who were defending the city of Mariupol from the Russians
He was captured in Mariupol last week and paraded on state TV
Born: 1994, Newark-on-Trent
Worked as: Care worker
Combat experience: Travelled to Syria in 2015 to fight for the Kurds in a western-backed alliance against ISIS
He made headlines on his return to the UK in 2016 when he was arrested, charged with terrorism offences, and then kept on bail until all charges were dropped following protests
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
Journey to Ukraine: After being arrested in the UK a second time trying to return from Syria via Greece, Aslin moved to Ukraine after falling for a woman from the city of Mykolaiv
Having heard about Ukraine’s 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
Aslin completed three tours of the frontline and was dug into trenches in the Donbas in late February when Putin’s troops stormed across the border in a second invasion
He ended up falling back to the nearby city of Mariupol where he fought for weeks under siege, before being captured last week after his unit ran out of ammunition
Relatives of the men have called for them not to be classed as ‘mercenaries’.
Pinner is a former Royal Anglian soldier and has made clear he considers Ukraine his second country, where he married.
A statement issued by Pinner’s family said: ‘Shaun was a well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years. He served in many tours including Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia.
‘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 statement issued via the Foreign Office went on: ‘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.’
Viktor Medvedchuk: Putin’s ‘prince of darkness’
Viktor Medvedchuk is a hugely controversial figure in Ukraine because of his close ties to Moscow.
Known in Ukraine as the ‘prince of darkness’ or ‘grey cardinal’ – meaning a shadowy political player – he claims to be so close to Putin that the Russian leader is godfather to his youngest daughter, Darya.
A businessman who amassed his fortune through investments in the media, natural resources and energy, Medvedchuk rose through the political ranks at a time when Ukraine was known for backroom deals and corruption.
As a close ally of Putin, Medvedchuk entered parliament in the late 1990s and for three years in the early 2000s was head of the presidential administration.
Medvedchuk (left) is known as the ‘prince of darkness’ and Putin’s ‘grey cardinal’ because of his close ties to the Kremlin and years of advocating on Russia’s behalf in Ukraine
Known as a power-broker between Kyiv and Moscow, he was courted variously by pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders who wanted closer ties and pro-Western governments who hoped to make use of his access to the Kremlin.
Medvedchuk was a bitter critic of the Euromaidan protests which erupted in late 2013 and ended with the toppling of political ally Viktor Yanukovych – a pro-Russian politician who fled the country after his brutal repression of the protests failed.
After Putin invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea, and backed breakaway governments in the Donbas region in 2014, Medvedchuk was appointed negotiator on behalf of the breakaway regions in talks with the government.
He was also sanctioned by the US for his alleged role in the annexation of Crimea.
He had been under house arrest since 2021 on treason charges over accusations that he tried to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea and hand Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.
Source: Daily Mail