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2 captured Britons appear on Russian state TV, ask to be swopped

MOSCOW  (REUTERS) – Two British fighters captured in Ukraine by Russian forces appeared on Russian state TV on Monday (April 18) and asked to be exchanged for a pro-Russian politician who is being held by the Ukrainian authorities.

It was unclear how freely the two men – Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin – were able to talk.

Both spoke separately after being prompted by an unidentified man. The footage was broadcast on the Rossiya 24 state TV channel.

The two men asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help bring them home in exchange for Ukraine releasing pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who was shown in a video released around the same time on Monday by Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service asking to be swapped too.

Medvedchuk, in his appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, asked to be exchanged for the defenders of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and any civilians allowed to leave.

Both Pinner and Aslin fought on the Ukrainian side in Mariupol, which is now almost entirely under Russian control.

The unidentified man shown on Russian state TV was seen showing the two Britons a video on his mobile phone of Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana, making an appeal over the weekend for her husband to be swapped for the two British nationals.

Three days after Russia moved its forces into Ukraine on Feb 24, Ukraine said Medvedchuk had escaped from house arrest. He had been placed under house arrest in May 2021 and charged with high treason and later with aiding terrorism.

The pro-Russian figure, who says Putin is godfather to his daughter, has denied wrongdoing.

“I understand the situation,” Pinner, who looked tired and nervous, said after being shown the video.

“I’d like to appeal to the government to send me back home, I’d like to see my wife again,” he said.

Pinner made a direct appeal to Johnson on his own behalf and on Aslin’s behalf.

“We look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr Medvedchuk. Obviously I would really appreciate your help in this matter,” he said, saying he spoke a little Russian and had been treated well.

The unidentified man was then shown speaking to Aslin, who was sat on a chair wearing a T-shirt bearing the emblem of Ukraine’s far-right Azov battalion.

“I think that Boris needs to listen to what Oksana (Medvedchuk’s wife) has said,” said Aslin, who also looked nervous.

“If Boris Johnson really does care about British citizens like he says he does then he will help.” 

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