Death sentences handed to Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner branded 'sham judgements'

Three men captured in Ukraine have been sentenced to death by pro-Moscow rebels. ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports.

The death sentences handed to three men, including two Britons, who were captured by Russia while fighting for Ukraine have been branded a "sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy".

Aiden Aslin, 28, from Nottinghamshire and Shaun Pinner, 48, from Bedfordshire, were were convicted of taking action towards violent seizure of power at a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).The third man sentenced is reported to be Saaudun Brahim, a Moroccan national.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she "utterly condemns" the sentencing.

"They are prisoners of war. This is a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy," she wrote on Twitter.

"My thoughts are with the families. We continue to do everything we can to support them."

Mr Aslin told reporters after the sentencing: "I was hoping the sentence would be a lot fairer judging the circumstances in which I helped the investigation and also because I surrendered to the Donetsk People's Republic.

"I wish it could be different but God will be the one that will judge me when the time comes."

'God will be the one that will judge me,' Mr Aslin said after the sentencing

Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti reported on Thursday that the three men are set to face a firing squad. They have a month to appeal.

The court is understood to have found them guilty of taking action toward a violent overthrow of power, an offence punishable by death in the unrecognised republic held by Russian-backed rebels.

The court is not internationally recognised.

They were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.

Another British fighter captured by the pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill, is awaiting trial.

ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan explains how the government is reacting to the death sentences

Mr Alsin's MP, former minister Robert Jenrick said he had spoken to the families of both Britons on Thursday, and they are both "devastated".

"Two British citizens have been put on a Soviet-era-style show trial and now found guilty of trumped-up charges and sentenced to death.

"This could not be a more serious situation. We need to ensure these individuals are treated properly, in accordance with international law and brought home, either to their friends and family in Ukraine or back to the UK."

Aiden Aslin's MP, Robert Jenrick, branded the court case 'as Soviet-era-style show trial' and the charges 'trumped-up'

Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner had been fighting with Ukrainian forces in the southern port city of Mariupol when they were taken prisoner in mid-April, while Mr Brahim was captured in mid-March in the eastern city of Volnovakha.

After being captured, Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner appeared in videos in April asking to be part of a prisoner swap in exchange for pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who was being held by Ukraine.

Aiden Aslin is from Nottinghamshire.

The Kremlin was reported to have suggested the exchange more than a week before the footage emerged.

Moscow-backed separatists had claimed the three fighters are “mercenaries” who are not entitled to the usual protections afforded to prisoners of war.

In response, Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner’s families said that the men, who are both thought to have lived in Ukraine since 2018, were “long-serving” members of the Ukrainian military.

Mr Aslin being sworn in as a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The government has called for the men's rights as prisoners of war to be respected under the Geneva Convention, which states that they must be treated humanely and protected from humiliating or degrading treatment.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “We are obviously deeply concerned by this. We have said continually that prisoners of war shouldn’t be exploited for political purposes.

“Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are entitled to combatant immunity and they should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.

“So we will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities to try to secure the release of any British nationals who were serving in the Ukrainian armed forces and who are being held as prisoners of war.”

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Mr Aslin's family, who previously urged the government to "act now", issued an emotional statement calling for his release on Tuesday.

In a statement released through the Foreign Office, Mr Aslin's family asked for privacy and said: “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.”