Aiden Aslin’s family said they were shocked that a video of the captured fighter was filmed by a former Whitehall civil servant and have called for Russian authorities to meet their obligations to prisoners of war
The family of a captured British soldier in Ukraine have condemned a “shocking” video showing him handcuffed while being filmed by a pro-Kremlin Briton.
Aiden Aslin, 28, was interviewed by Graham Phillips, a British former civil servant who is banned from Ukraine for spreading pro-Russian conspiracy theories and propaganda, who posted footage of the interview to his YouTube channel.
Mr Aslin is being held by Russian forces along with fellow British soldier Shaun Pinner, 48, after being taken prisoner in Mariupol while fighting alongside Ukrainian marines.
“Anything my brother says in that video is entirely fictitious as he’s only saying it to prevent worse treatment or a bullet,” Mr Aslin’s brother Nathan Wood told i.
In an address to Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Robert Jenrick, Mr Aslin’s local MP in his hometown of Newark, Nottinghamshire, raised the family’s plight and said under Parliamentary privilege that Mr Phillips risked being prosecuted for war crimes, accusing him of a “flagrant breach” of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.
Mr Wood, 25, backed calls for Mr Phillips, also from Nottingham, to be prosecuted under international law.
“I think if [Mr Phillips] does ever return to the UK or a country that he would be liable to prosecution in, then he needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of international law,” he said.
“From what I know of the man, he’s been completely brainwashed by the Russian government.”
He called for Mr Phillips to be outed for “spreading disinformation” and to be discredited as a “journalist in general”.
Mr Phillips has previously posted videos to his YouTube channel falsely claiming that the Bucha massacre was staged and that Ukraine is run by neo-Nazis.
Mr Aslin’s sister, Shannon Tinegate, 27, added that her brother was “clearly being coerced” during the video interview.
“He states in his video that it wasn’t coerced, he wasn’t putting words into Aiden’s mouth, that Aiden is speaking freely,” Ms Tinegate told i.
“We as his family all think differently. The way this Graham person speaks to him, he is constantly demoralizing him and his beliefs.
“To say he is from Nottingham as well, I am assuming his roots would not be far from us. It’s shocking that somebody who could be in the middle and having a fair interview, isn’t.
“When you get the first supposed Western journalist you think, this is hopeful, this is good. And then when you watch the video your opinion changes soon because he is pro-Russian.”
In other videos filmed following their capture and shown on Russian state television, both Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner urged the Prime Minister to help secure their freedom in exchange for Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Putin Ukrainian politician who was captured by Ukrainian forces earlier this month after violating house arrest on treason charges.
Ms Tinegate revealed that Mr Medvedchuk’s son Bogdan Marchenko had contacted her on Facebook asking if they could help arrange a prisoner swap.
She said the family have been in contact with the Foreign Office since her brother was taken prisoner after surrendering to Russians troops, but added: “It’s not going to be an overnight thing.
“We are not the ones that ultimately decide that, it’s not in our hands. What we hope for is a swap to get both Aiden and Shaun safe and well.”
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Jenrick called for YouTube and other social media platforms to remove the video filmed by Mr Phillips immediately, branding it “illegal” and “grotesque”.
Mr Johnson urged the Russian state to treat Mr Aslin, “humanely and compassionately”, and rejected claims he was a “mercenary”.
The Prime Minister said: “Although we do not encourage people, in fact, we actively dissuade people from going to that theater of conflict, I understand that he had been serving in the Ukrainian forces for some time and his situation was very different from that [of] a mercenary.
“I hope that he is treated with care and compassion. I thoroughly echo the sentiments of my right honorable friend has expressed about those who broadcast propaganda messages.”
It comes after Downing Street said on Wednesday that Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner should have respected their rights as prisoners of war, despite a minister’s suggestion that the provisions do not apply.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis had suggested on Tuesday morning that the two men were “illegally” fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.