Pro-Russian forces say execution of Brits in Ukraine 'won't be public'

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
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Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. The two British citizens and a Moroccan have been sentenced to death by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine for fighting on Ukraine's side. The three men fought alongside Ukrainian troops and surrendered to Russian forces weeks ago. (AP Photo)
Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk. (AP)

Two British men sentenced to death by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine will not be publicly executed, authorities in the region have said.

Aiden Aslin, 28, from Nottinghamshire, Shaun Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, were charged with being foreign mercenaries having been captured in the southern city of Mariupol in April.

Despite both having Ukrainian citizenship, Russian forces charged the pair and issued the death penalty.

Read more: Last minute attempt to stop execution of Brits in Ukraine issued by ECHR

A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was also given the same sentence.

Now, authorities in Donetsk have said their captives will be executed by firing squad, and preparations have been made for the sentence to be carried out.

Denis Pushilin, head of a Russia-backed separatist group in the region, did not give an indication of when the executions might take place and added "all the foreigners filed appeals", told Russian state-run TASS news agency reported.

Watch: Aslin and Pinner - 'No excuse for sham trial', says minister

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Click on this image to see all Yahoo News UK's latest content on the Ukraine crisis

"The penitentiary service will be guided by its internal decisions," he said.

"The execution of the sentences shall not be made public."

He continued: "We are awaiting a court session. If the court finds this punitive measure and the sentence to be appropriate, then their cases will be handed over to the corresponding agency to carry out the verdict," he said.

They were sentenced in a court in the Donetsk People's Republic, which is not internationally recognised, and which UK foreign secretary Liz Truss condemned as a "sham judgment".

Mr Aslin joined the Ukrainian marines in 2018 and had been fighting with his unit in Mariupol during the Ukraine crisis.

In April, he was captured after his unit was surrounded and they ran out of ammunition and supplies.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court. (AP)
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court. (AP)

Russia claims he is a foreign mercenary — which would prevent him from having protection under the Geneva Convention — when, in fact, Mr Aslin holds dual citizenship and was fighting with the Ukrainian army.

The Russian state news agency said Mr Pinner and Mr Brahim had pleaded guilty to actions aimed at the violent seizure of power.

Earlier this week, Russia's ambassador to Britain said he was surprised London has not made more of an effort to secure the release the men.

"We had a formal request here in London and in Moscow about these two guys - that they exist - and a phrase like 'we put all responsibility on Russia for them'," Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin said in an interview with Reuters.

"There was no demand for mediation, no demand for their release or anything like that. 'Let's talk about their fate and what can be done in this situation'. Nothing," he added.

(Twitter/@cossackgundi)
Aiden Aslin was captured fighting in Mariupol in April. (Twitter/@cossackgundi)

Responding to the suggestion that Moscow could easily put pressure on DPR officials to release the two men, Kelin said: "And so what? Has anyone from London asked us to do this? No."

A statement from the Foreign Office said it was doing "everything we can to support the men".

"We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and have raised this with Russia.

"We are in constant contact with the government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released."

Two other Britons, Dylan Healy, 22, and Andrew Hill, 35, are also in custody in Donetsk having been captured in July and charged with carrying out "mercenary activities".

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