A British freedom fighter who was captured in Ukraine and released after a prisoner swap has said he has ‘no words to describe’ the conditions he was kept in.
Aiden Aslin, 28, from Nottinghamshire, spent around five months in the hands of Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk and expected to die at their hands.
He had been sentenced to death along with four other Brits for fighting Putin’s invaders as part of a volunteer brigade.
Just days ago their families saw rumours circulating on social media that the execution was carried out – but were overjoyed on Thursday when they were told the five men were returning home.
In a video taken from their plane home, Aiden thanked ‘everyone who’s been supporting us’ while one of his comrades, Bedfordshire-based British Army veteran Shaun Pinner, said they had escaped ‘by the skin of our teeth’.
In his first video since arriving back to the UK, Aiden began campaigning for more to be done to help ‘Ukrainian prisoners [who are] still in the prisons in Donetsk and in Russia’.
He added: ‘The conditions are, truly … there are no words to describe the conditions they have.
‘So we need to keep the people that are still there – that we haven’t left behind – who are still there waiting for us to help them return to their families.
‘The best thing that we can do is to continue to speak about the prisoners who are still in captivity.
‘As much as I appreciate the focus on me, the focus should be paid to the guys that didn’t come home with us because they’re the ones that are suffering the most right now.’
Aiden’s family say he was tortured in captivity, while his captors allegedly played sick psychological ‘games’ with them to gain leverage in the prisoner swap negotiations.
His mum Angela says Russian officials repeatedly sent her horrifying clips showing him bound on the floor surrounded by screaming guards, hoping she would pressure British officials into pushing for the release of high-profile Russians.
She told The Sun: ‘They knew how vulnerable the families were, how anxious we felt, and they tried to turn the screw in a bid to take us to breaking point.
‘They knew we were suffering and they tried to exploit it for their own gains.
‘It was extremely hard to deal with — but we refused to play their games. As a mum, you’ll do everything to stop your children being harmed.
‘But I refused to be cowed so I fought back. I told them to f**k off every time.’
As well as five other foreign fighters, some 215 Ukrainian soldiers were released in exchange for 55 Russian soldiers and a pro-Putin Ukrainian oligarch who faced treason charges.
The UK government has not confirmed how the deal to free foreign prisoners of war was arranged, although it is known to have been brokered by Saudi Arabia.
Aiden previously thanked Saudi officials, Ukraine’s President Zelensky and ‘everyone who helped secure our release’.
Former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich is also said to have played a ‘key part’ in the negotiations, having used his connections to help open peace talks and humanitarian corridors in the early months of the war.
Mr Aslin moved to Ukraine in 2018 after he fell in love with a woman from Mykolaiv.
He was enlisted in the Ukrainian army and had been fighting in Mariupol when his military unit ran out of food and ammunition.
They were left with ‘no choice’ but to surrender to Kremlin troops earlier this year.
He and Mr Pinner were convicted of ‘mercenary activities’ and ‘undergoing training to carry out terrorist activities’ by a kangaroo court run by Moscow-funded thugs.
To add insult to injury, Aiden was used as a pawn in propaganda filmed with the help of another man from Nottinghamshire, former journalist Graham William Phillips.
Philips, who previously worked for Kremlin-controlled news outlet Russia Today, now films YouTube clips in which he claims to be ‘documenting’ the war from areas known to be strictly controlled by pro-Russian forces.
He uploaded a clip in April of an ‘interview’ with Aiden in which the POW denied he was under duress but repeatedly parroted Moscow propaganda lines, including the claims of being a ‘mercenary’ which would later be the backbone of his death sentence.
Philips claims his work is self-funded through donations and revenue from his YouTube profile.
However YouTube has indefinitely suspended his channel’s monetisation, and the number of hits on his videos were nowhere near as much as most content creators who make enough advertising revenue to live off.
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