It came as Boris Johnson ordered ministers to do ‘everything in their power’ to secure the release of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner – but failed to summon the Russian ambassador for talks.
Image: Zvezda TV/east2west news)
Boris Johnson is ‘appalled’ by today’s ‘fictitious’ death sentences against two Britons fighting in Ukraine’s Downing Street as the Foreign Secretary called them a ‘flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention’.
Prime Minister has ordered ministers to do ‘everything in their power’ to secure the release of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, who were paraded by pro-Russian officials in eastern Ukraine during of a show trial.
Yet he did not ask Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to summon the Russian ambassador, despite a request from one of the two men’s local MPs.
British officials believe this would escalate the situation and lend credence to Russian claims that the men were mercenaries. In fact, they were legitimate members of the Ukrainian army, just like the prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Convention.
No10 also declined to say whether Boris Johnson had spoken to the two men’s families, saying: ‘I’m not aware of that.
It comes after Ms Truss had a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba this morning ‘reiterating her concern and discussing next steps’.
She tweeted: “I spoke with Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba to discuss efforts to secure the release of POWs held by Russian proxies. The judgment against them is a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention.
Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner, 48, were found guilty of taking steps towards a violent power grab in a court in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.
A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted alongside them.
Robert Jenrick, Tory MP for Newark, where Mr Aslin is from, criticized the ‘disgusting Soviet-era show trial’.
He said a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia – not involving the UK – is the most likely solution.
He told the Mirror: “If the problem is solved, it will be via a prisoner swap. Both sides have at least a few thousand personnel from the other side.”
But he also urged Liz Truss to summon the Russian ambassador – something No10 repeatedly refused to say today would happen.
Human rights charity Amnesty has also urged the UK to contact its counterparts in Moscow. Kristyan Benedict, Head of Crisis Response at Amnesty International UK, said: “This is a farcical decision.
“This so-called trial has always had the appearance of a show trial designed to put pressure on the UK, and these convictions seem intended to fire a warning shot at the UK for its support for Ukraine. in this brutal war.
“The Geneva Conventions make it clear that prisoners of war should not be tried or sentenced simply for participating in hostilities, much less should they be sentenced to death.
“Russia and its proxies in the Donetsk People’s Republic will add to a huge catalog of war crimes if they attempt to carry out these sentences.
“The UK, the UN and other bodies should inform Moscow that these convictions are totally unacceptable and must be reversed immediately.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister was appalled at the sentencing of these men. He has been following the case closely and has asked ministers to do all they can to try to bring them reunite with their families as soon as possible.
“We totally condemn the false death sentence of these men. There is no justification for this violation of the protection to which they are entitled.”
But the spokesman declined to say the matter would be raised directly with Russia, saying: “We are clear that we support Ukraine in its efforts to free these men.
“They were members of the Ukrainian armed forces and are therefore prisoners of war.”
A person close to the families’ struggle compared the Foreign Office’s stance to the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – whose family was initially told not to give more publicity to his imprisonment in Iran.
Mr Aslin, from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, and Mr Pinner were both members of regular Ukrainian military units fighting in Mariupol, the southern port city that saw some of the heaviest fighting since the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin.
Mr Aslin is believed to have a Ukrainian partner and other members of his family are still in Newark where they are prominent members of the local community.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are working with the Ukrainian government on the detention of British nationals.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes. They are entitled to combatant immunity and should not be prosecuted for participation in hostilities.