Aiden Aslin’s family ‘very relieved’ by his release from Russian-backed forces

·4-min read
Shaun Pinner, wearing orange, and Aiden Aslin, right, on the plane home to the UK - SKY NEWS
Shaun Pinner, wearing orange, and Aiden Aslin, right, on the plane home to the UK - SKY NEWS

The mother of a British man captured and sentenced to death by Russian forces while fighting in Ukraine spoke of her joy on Wednesday night as he was freed alongside four other British citizens.

Aiden Aslin, 28, who was convicted of terrorism by pro-Kremlin separatists in Eastern Ukraine, touched down in Saudi Arabia after Russia agreed to handover 10 foreign prisoners of war.

His mother, Angela Wood, who lives in Newark, Notts, described her son as a “very brave man” and told of her relief.

She said: "If it's true it's a big relief. If it's all true I am very relieved. He [my son] is a very brave man. But I cannot comment at the moment."

The 28-year-old was seen disembarking an aircraft in the Saudi capital Riyadh in a picture released by the Kingdom's foreign affairs ministry.

The Government confirmed on Wednesday that five Britons captured in Ukraine were freed as part of the deal brokered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Robert Jenrick, Mr Aslin's local MP, said his constituent was amongst the group of freed prisoners.

Mr Aslin, a former care worker from Newark-on-Trent, who has dual British and Ukrainian citizenship, moved to Ukraine after meeting now-wife Diane.

Russian proxies claimed he was a foreign mercenary, while Kyiv and Britain insisted he should be afforded protections under the Geneva Convention as a serving member of Ukraine's armed forces.

Mr Aslin was captured alongside Shaun Pinner, 48, a former British Army soldier, and sentenced to death by firing squad by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic earlier this year. Brahim Saadoun, a Moroccan, was also convicted in the same sham trial.

In a personal message recorded on their flight home, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner thanked those who had worked to free them.

"We're now out of the danger zone and on our way home to our families," said Mr Aslin. "By the skin of our teeth," smiled Mr Pinner.

Mr Aslin continued: "We just want everyone to know the good news. Thanks to everyone who has been supportive. It's really appreciated."

Alongside the five freed Britons, Saudi authorities on Wednesday announced the release of two Americans, one Moroccan, one Swede and one Croat.

They will soon be returned to their home countries, the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

The identities of the other British nationals remained unclear.

The families of the two US nationals – Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27 – who were captured in June while fighting in Eastern Ukraine, confirmed their release.

Ann Linde, the Swedish foreign minister, confirmed a Swedish citizen, captured in May in the siege of the port city of Mariupol and facing a possible death sentence, was among those released.

Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, said: “Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.

"I thank Volodymyr Zelensky for his efforts to secure the release of detainees, and Saudi Arabia for their assistance."

Aiden Aslin, 28, was sentenced to death by pro-Kremlin proxies in Eastern Ukraine in June - Julian Simmonds
Aiden Aslin, 28, was sentenced to death by pro-Kremlin proxies in Eastern Ukraine in June - Julian Simmonds

James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, added: “This brings to an end many months of uncertainty and suffering, including the threat of the death penalty, for them and their families, at the hands of Russia."

He also paid his condolences to the family of Paul Urey, 45, a British aid worker, who was allegedly tortured to death by pro-Kremlin separatists.

The release of the foreign prisoners was brokered with the help of Mohammed bin Salman, who has close ties with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

The Saudi Crown Prince has continued to work with the Kremlin despite heavy pressure from Western leaders to isolate Russia.

It was unclear if their release was part of a wider deal to free some 200 detainees, in what would be one of the largest prisoner swap deals between Ukraine and Russia since the start of the war.

Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have captured hundreds of enemy fighters since the start of the conflict, with a number of swap deals having taken place.

This week Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, told journalists that Kyiv and Moscow had agreed to swap 200 prisoners following talks with the Russian leaders in Uzbekistan.

There have been reports the apparent deal could include Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician and close friend of Mr Putin, who was captured in April.