'We miss him so much': Family ‘devastated’ by British fighter's death sentence for fighting Russia

Shaun Pinner has been sentenced to death in Donetsk, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Ukraine. Credit: AP

The family of a British man sentenced to death for fighting Russian forces have said they are “devastated” and "miss him so much".

Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to do “everything in their power” to secure the release of Shaun Pinner, along with fellow Briton Aiden Aslin, after the pair were condemned to death in what the UK government has described as a “sham” sentencing.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss discussed efforts to secure their release with her Ukrainian counterpart on Friday, after the judgment by a Russian proxy court.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office on behalf of the family of Mr Pinner, 48, said they are “devastated and saddened at the outcome of the illegal show trial”.

Reporting from Kyiv, ITV News Europe Editor James Mates hears from a friend of one of the two British men sentenced to death by pro-Moscow officials

They added: “As a Ukrainian resident for over four years and contracted serving marine in the 36th Brigade, of which he is very proud, Shaun should be accorded all the rights of a prisoner of war according to the Geneva Convention and including full independent legal representation.

“We sincerely hope that all parties will co-operate urgently to ensure the safe release or exchange of Shaun. Our family, including his son and Ukrainian wife, love and miss him so much and our hearts go out to all the families involved in this awful situation.

“We respectfully ask for privacy from the media at this difficult time.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, suggested on Friday that negotiations for a possible prisoner swap with Moscow were under way, as it emerged Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had made a surprise visit to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Later that day, Ms Truss said she had spoken with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba “to discuss efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies”.

She tweeted: “The judgment against them is an egregious breach of the Geneva Convention. The UK continues to back Ukraine against Putin’s barbaric invasion.”

A friend of Mr Aslin told ITV News that it's "not even possible that he could be, or would be a mercenary", which is what the British fighter has been accused of.

Brennan Phillips said that Mr Aslin joined the Ukrainian marines in 2018 - long before Russia's invasion - meaning he should be treated as a prisoner of war and not subject to a trial.

"He has a home here in Ukraine," Mr Phillips said.

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"His fiancée is Ukrainian. And he served as a uniformed service member in the Ukrainian marine core so it's not even possible that he could be, or would be a mercenary."

A relative of Mr Aslin previously urged Britain and Ukraine to “do everything in their power to have them returned to us safely, and soon”.

They said Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner “are not, and never were, mercenaries” and should be treated as prisoners of war as they were fighting as part of the Ukrainian army.

The men were convicted of taking action towards violent seizure of power at a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.