The Daily Telegraph
Mother’s joy as captive Briton is freed by Russians
Aiden Aslin’s family celebrates as ‘brave’ son escapes death sentence after fighting in Ukraine
THE mother of a British man captured and sentenced to death by Russian forces while fighting in Ukraine spoke of her joy last night as he was freed alongside four other UK citizens.
Aiden Aslin, 28, who was convicted of terrorism by pro-kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine, touched down in Saudi Arabia after Russia agreed to hand over 10 foreign prisoners of war.
His mother, Angela Wood, who lives in Newark, Notts, described her son as a “very brave man” and told of her relief. She said: “If it’s true, it’s a big relief. If it’s all true, I am very relieved. He is a very brave man.”
Mr Aslin was seen disembarking from an aircraft in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and, in a personal message recorded on their flight home, Mr Aslin and fellow British freed POW Shaun Pinner, 48, from Watford, thanked those who had worked to free them.
“We’re now out of the danger zone and on our way home to our families,” said Mr Aslin. “By the skin of our teeth,” smiled Mr Pinner.
Mr Aslin continued: “We just want everyone to know the good news. Thanks to everyone who has been supportive. It’s really appreciated.”
The Government last night confirmed that five Britons captured in Ukraine were freed as part of the deal brokered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
It was not clear last night how the Crown Prince, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin who has been slowly rebuilding relations with the West, played such a key role.
Robert Jenrick, Mr Aslin’s MP, said his constituent was among the group of freed prisoners.
The former care worker from Newark, who has dual British and Ukrainian citizenship, moved to Ukraine after meeting his now-wife Diane.
Russian proxies claimed he was a foreign mercenary, while Kyiv and Britain insisted he should be afforded protections under the Geneva Convention as a serving member of Ukraine’s armed forces.
Mr Aslin was captured alongside Mr Pinner, a former British Army soldier, and sentenced to death by firing squad by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic earlier this year.
Brahim Saadoun, a Moroccan, was also convicted in the same sham trial.
Alongside the five freed Britons, three of whom have yet to be officially named, Saudi authorities last night announced the release of two American citizens, one Moroccan, one Swede and one Croat.
They will soon be returned to their home countries, the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
The families of the two US nationals – Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27 – who were captured in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine, confirmed their release while Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister, confirmed that a Swedish citizen, captured in May in the siege of Mariupol and who was also facing a possible death sentence, was among those released.
Speaking from the US after attending the UN General Assembly, Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, said: “Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.
“I thank Volodymyr Zelensky for his efforts to secure the release of detainees, and Saudi Arabia for their assistance.”
James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, added: “This brings to an end many months of uncertainty and suffering, including the threat of the death penalty, for them and their families, at the hands of Russia.”
He also paid his condolences to the family of Paul Urey, 45, a British aid worker who was allegedly tortured to death by pro-kremlin separatists.
The Saudi Crown Prince has continued to work with the Kremlin despite heavy pressure from Western leaders to isolate Russia.
It was unclear if the release of the foreign prisoners was part of a wider deal to free some 200 detainees, in what would be one of the largest prisoner swap deals between Ukraine and Russia since the start of the war.
Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have captured hundreds of enemy fighters since the start of the conflict, with a number of swap deals having taken place.
This week Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, told journalists that Kyiv and Moscow had agreed to swap 200 prisoners following talks with the Russian leaders in Uzbekistan.
‘This brings to an end many months of uncertainty and suffering, including the threat of the death penalty’