Briton released in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap pictured with his family

UK

One of five Britons released from Russian detention in Ukraine after a prisoner swap has been pictured with his family.

Shaun Pinner has been reunited with his family in the UK, his sister, Cassandra, confirmed.

“If you thought COVID highlighted the importance of family, this is even bigger,” she told Sky News.

It comes as the foreign and commonwealth office confirmed the names of all five Britons who were released – Aiden Aslin, John Harding, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, as well as Mr Pinner.

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Prior to their release, four of the men featured in video clips posted online or on Russian state TV.

On their flight home, Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner recorded a message, thanking those who had worked to free them.

More on Ukraine

“We’re now out of the danger zone and on our way home to our families,” said Mr Aslin.

“By the skin of our teeth,” Mr Pinner, who is from Bedfordshire, added.

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British POWs speak after release

In April, both men were captured by Russian forces who accused them of being mercenaries.

As a result, they appeared in court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, and were threatened with death by firing squad.

At the time, Mr Pinner’s family stressed that he was “not a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serving with the Ukrainian army”.

In the months before he appeared in court, Mr Pinner told Sky News that he was on his fourth tour of duty in Ukraine after serving in the British Army for nine years.

The 48-year-old has living in the country since 2018 and has a Ukrainian wife.

Who else was released?

Most of the people freed in the prisoner exchange are Ukrainian, including many soldiers from the Azov regiment, which gained fame for its defence of the final stronghold in Mariupol.

Mr Harding was among the small group of soldiers who were holed up inside the Azovstal steelworks in the southeastern port city.

In footage broadcast on Russian state TV in April, Mr Pinner also said he had been fighting in the besieged city for five to six weeks.

Ten other foreigners have been released to Saudi Arabia before they return home, including Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, Americans Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

The exchange took place unexpectedly, coming as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons.

It was brokered with help from Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has close ties with Mr Putin.

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