LONDON — Two captured British men, who say they were serving in the Ukrainian army, have been featured on Russian state television after being captured.
Shaun Pinner, who reportedly fought alongside Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol before they reportedly surrendered on April 13, appeared tired in the Saturday night broadcast on the Russian media outlet NTV. The Times of London reported that Pinner had no visible injuries in the clip and spoke “clearly and without emotion.”
“Hi, I’m Shaun Pinner. I am a citizen of the U.K.,” he said in the video, which was also posted to social media. “I was captured in Mariupol. I am part of the 36 Brigade First Battalion Ukrainian Marines. I was fighting in Mariupol for five to six weeks, and now I’m in Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Mariupol, where the Russian Defense Ministry said 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers recently surrendered, has become a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance since Russian troops began their invasion on Feb. 24. The once thriving port city has been mostly reduced to rubble, and its remaining residents struggle to get food and water.
Pinner, a former Royal Anglian Regiment soldier, told the Daily Mail in March: “I am here defending my family and adopted city. Russia started this war.” He added: “It’s funded by Russia and driven by Russia, but we will fight them, make no mistake about that.”
He also eerily spoke about his possible capture by Russian forces. “I fear for my life,” he said. “The Russians will treat us differently if we are captured because we are British. This is always on my mind, that I will be captured.”
The 48-year-old, originally from Bedfordshire, England, had reportedly been living in the Donbas region with his Ukrainian wife before joining the war effort in besieged Mariupol alongside his friend and fellow Brit Aiden Aslin.
The 27-year-old Aslin also appeared on Russian television on Monday, asking to be freed in exchange for Viktor Medvedchuk, a leading pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Medvedchuk was arrested last year on treason charges but allegedly escaped house arrest during the Russian invasion; Ukraine says he was captured again last week. (On Monday, Medvedchuk also asked to be part of a prisoner swap for Mariupol’s defenders, according to a video released by Ukraine’s intelligence service.)
Russian TV broadcast Pinner’s interview again the same day, the Times reported.
It is unclear whether the two captured soldiers were able to speak freely, as they appeared to be prompted by an unidentified man in the footage. According to BBC News, Aslin has dual Ukrainian-British citizenship and had been fighting alongside Ukrainian forces since the beginning of the invasion. A picture of him first appeared on Telegram last week with a swollen eye and cuts on his forehead, one week after his battalion reportedly surrendered.
The families of both men asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to have them returned safely. Pinner's and Aslin’s families are working with the British Foreign Office to “ensure their rights as prisoners of war are upheld according to the Geneva Convention.”
Pinner’s family also made it clear in a statement they released through the Foreign Office that he was officially a soldier in the Ukrainian army and not a rogue volunteer.
“Shaun was a well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years,” the statement read. “He served in many tours including Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia. In 2018 Shaun decided to relocate to Ukraine to use his previous experience and training within the Ukraine Military.” The statement added: “Shaun is a funny, much loved well-intentioned Husband, Son, Father, Brother, and Friend to many. We are hoping for a quick resolution to allow Shaun and Aiden to return safely to their families and we ask for privacy at this difficult time.”
Aslin’s brother, Nathan Wood, spoke to the Daily Mail about the capture. “What have the Russians done to him? He looks awful, absolutely exhausted,” he said. “But however horrible it is to see him in such a state, it does show that he is still alive and that is giving us as a family some slight relief. I would appeal again to the Russians to treat him well and humanely.”