UKRAINE says it is ready to exchange Russian POWs to secure the release of hero fighters Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner.
The Britons – both serving members of the Ukrainian army – have been sentenced to death by a kangaroo court after they were reportedly duped into admitting they were terrorists.
Expats Aiden, 28, and Shaun, 48, were captured after running out of ammunition during the brutal siege of Mariupol.
They were convicted as illegal mercenaries in a mock trial by Putin’s deputies in the occupied Donetsk region.
Ukraine says they are soldiers who should be protected as prisoners of war under international law.
And last night, the country’s ambassador to Britain, Vadym Prystaiko, suggested they be released under a prisoner swap deal with Russia.
In return, Putin could demand the release of a number of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politicians imprisoned on alleged espionage charges.
“It will be a swap,” Mr Prystaiko told BBC News.
“The important question is what the price will be, because the Russians talked about exchanging some Ukrainian MPs for them, especially those who I now understand have worked for them all these years.”
The ambassador added that Aiden and Shaun “have contracts with the armed forces, they previously lived in Ukraine, so they are legally there.”
He said: “We expect Russians to remember that these are our people and should be treated as prisoners of war – just as we treat Russians in our captivity.”
It comes after Boris Johnson ordered ministers to do “everything in their power” to ensure the release of the two Britons.
Secretary of State Liz Truss and Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace both spoke with their Ukrainian counterparts yesterday.
Ms Truss said the court’s ruling was “a egregious breach of the Geneva Convention”.
According to sources, the government will “leave no stone unturned”.
But British diplomats are wary of directly challenging Russia on the matter for fear of handing Putin a huge propaganda victory, the BBC reports.
Nor can they negotiate with the authorities in Donetsk because Britain does not recognize it as a legitimate state.
Instead, they are focused on helping Ukraine ensure the safety of its legally recognized prisoners of war.
And a source told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s really important that we don’t give the Russians ammunition to paint these guys as mercenaries.”
Analysts say the Kremlin hopes to drag Britain into a war of words so they can claim the West is sending saboteurs to attack Russians.
Yesterday we told how Aiden and Shaun called the Sun newsroom on a satellite phone to beg for their lives.
Shaun’s mother Denise Price, 65, who was also called, said: “It appears he is being used for propaganda.”
The two men were also allegedly tricked into confessing after being promised lighter sentences.
Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark, where Aiden’s family lives, said he wanted to see both men returned to their families, “probably through a prisoner exchange.”
But he added that Russia “seems in no hurry to move forward with this prisoner swap.”
Shaun is a former Royal Anglian soldier from Bedfordshire and Aiden is a former carer from Newark, Notts.
Both men have lived in Ukraine since 2018 and were professional soldiers in the country’s 36th Marine Corps.
Journalists were not admitted to their summary trial, and all news from the court came through Russian state media.
They were seen in a Telegram video in a metal cage with Moroccan militant Saaudun Brahim, 21, who was also sentenced to death.
It is reported that Aiden’s mother, Ang Wood, found out about the death sentence while watching TV news.
Aiden’s family said after the verdicts: “We love Aiden with all our hearts.
“As members of the Ukrainian armed forces, he and Shaun should be treated with the same respect as any other prisoner of war. They are not mercenaries and have never been.
“We hope this sentence is overturned and are asking the UK and Ukraine governments to do everything in their power to ensure they are brought back to us safely and soon.”
“We can only imagine what they are going through right now.”
Everything you need to know about the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Everything you need to know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…
Observers have described the charges as “fabricated” and the trial as a “demonstrative” attempt to emulate the war crimes trials of Russian soldiers in Kyiv.
Downing Street says the UK government is “deeply concerned” by the death sentences.
Tom Tugendhat MP, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, branded the act a “war crime” and a “barbaric violation” of the Geneva Convention.
“It’s not a state, it’s not a court and the judges are just people who dress up and pretend,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“The reality is that this is an absolutely brutal thing to do to three completely innocent people.”
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said the conviction was “nothing more than a violation and mockery of international humanitarian law and international human rights obligations of Russia as an occupying power via proxy”.
Help those fleeing conflict with The Sun’s Ukraine Fund
IMAGES of women and children fleeing the horrors of Ukraine’s devastated cities have moved Sun readers to tears.
Many of you want to help the five million people caught in the chaos – and now you can by donating to The Sun’s Ukraine fund.
Give as little as £3 or as much as you can afford and every penny will be donated to the local Red Cross to help women, children, the elderly, sick and wounded.
Donate here to support The Sun’s fund
Or SMS to 70141 from British mobile phones
£3 — SMS SUN£3
£5 — SMS SUN£5
£10 — SMS SUN£10
SMS cost your chosen donation amount (e.g. £5) + 1 standard message (we get 100%). Full T&Cs can be found at redcross.org.uk/mobile
The Ukraine Crisis Appeal will support people in areas currently affected by the crisis and those who may be affected by the crisis in the future.
In the unlikely event that the British Red Cross raises more money than can be reasonably and efficiently spent, any excess funds will be used to support it prepare for and respond to other humanitarian emergencies around the world.
For more information visit
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5540011/aiden-aslin-shaun-pinner-ukraine-prisoner-swap/ Ukraine ‘swaps Russian prisoners’ to free captured Brits Aiden Aslin & Shaun Pinner after ‘barbaric’ death sentence