October 1, 2022

Five British nationals captured in Ukraine and held by Russian-backed forces have been returned to their families, Prime Minister Liz Truss has revealed.

“Very welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine have been returned safely, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families,” she tweeted.

Aiden Aslin, a British fighter sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court, is among those acquitted, his MP Robert Jenrick said.

He tweeted: “Aiden’s return brings to an end months of agony of uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark who suffered every day of Aiden’s sham trial but never lost hope. Now that they are reunited as a family, they can finally be at peace.”

Mr Aslin, 28, moved to Ukraine in 2018 and later joined the country’s armed forces.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Russia released 10 foreign prisoners of war after the intervention of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The list includes American, British, Croatian, Moroccan and Swedish citizens, the ministry announced, adding that a plane with prisoners had landed in the kingdom.

“Relevant Saudi authorities have received and transferred them from Russia to the kingdom and are facilitating procedures for their countries,” the statement said.

The ministry did not identify the prisoners. A Saudi official said five were British, two Americans, one Croatian, one Moroccan and one Swedish national.

It is not yet known whether the five include Shaun Pinner, who was captured along with Mr Aslin and also sentenced to death in Donetsk, one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine.

Prince Mohammed maintains close ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, including within the framework of the OPEC+ group of oil producers, despite heavy pressure from Washington, Riyadh’s traditional ally, to isolate Russia.

Mrs Truss thanked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “for his efforts to secure the release of the detainees and Saudi Arabia for their assistance”.

“Russia must end the merciless exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian detainees for political purposes,” she added.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “This brings to an end months of uncertainty and suffering, including the threat of the death penalty, for them and their families at the hands of Russia.

“Tragically, this was not the case for one of those detained and our thoughts remain with Paul Urey’s family.”

A British aid worker died earlier this year while being held by Russian-backed separatists.

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