A Brit who volunteered to join Ukraine's army and fight against Russia was forced to surrender to enemy forces – and they were rescued from a death sentence by an unlikely ally, ex-Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
UK national Aiden Aslin was captured alongside fellow soldiers Shaun Pinner and Brahim Saaudoune and caged in a Russian courtroom accused of a range of crimes, which could land them a death sentence.
The Brit claims that while they were given lawyers, they did not get to speak to them. Similarly, while there was a translator, he claims they couldn’t follow what was said or asked of them by the judge and prosecutor.
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Writing for the Daily Mail, he said: “When the trial got going, it was hard to follow the translator and hard to keep up with all the jargon and all the sub-clauses. It was mercenary this and conspiracy that.
“Sometimes, a judge or a prosecutor would ask a question, but I was confused and didn't understand the rules of the game. In particular, I didn't understand the consequences of what I was admitting to.”
He and his fellow captured soldiers decided to plead guilty to all charges except for mercenary – which believed carried a death sentence.
But after entering their pleas, Aslin claims the lawyer approached then told him “The mercenary charge carries a sentence of only seven years. But you have pleaded guilty to forcible seizure of power and that carries the death sentence”.
Aslin claims he had been deliberately deceived and conned into his admission.
At the time, he told the press: “'I was hoping the sentence would be a lot fairer, given that I helped the investigation and also because I surrendered to the Donetsk People's Republic. I wish it could be different, but God will judge me when the time comes..
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He claimed that a friendly jail guard tried to reassure him that they wouldn’t go through with the execution, as they had been banned, adding it was more likely they would be traded for captured Russians.
Aslin said: “Humiliated, broken, bullied, I longed to end it all. I spent a few nights unable to sleep, just thinking of taking the razor and using it on my wrists.
“Living in a tiny box with one other person, you can't hide something as profound as suicidal depression. Prebeg caught my mood and gave me a verbal slap”.
The group heard no further news about what awaited them until they overheard a guard say "They're going home", soon after they were escorted out of the cell and taken to an airfield.
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Aslin was taken to a departure lounge at an airport, which he said was empty except fro a group of Arab men, including one who looked familiar.
He explained: "'You don't half look like Roman Abramovich,' said Shaun. 'I am Roman Abramovich,' he said."
Onboard Aslin claims that he and the other rescuees were treated like royalty and given everything they could ask for from clothes to iPhones
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He added: "I am grateful to both Abramovich and MBS for fixing the trade, in which Shaun, Brahim Saddoune and I were swapped, along with some 200-plus Ukrainians, for 50 Russians and the oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, a Putin favourite.
"But my gratitude to Abramovich, who served Vladimir Putin for a long time and, who knows, perhaps still does, and to the Saudi prince who has his critics chopped up, has its limits. To me, they are knights in dark satin, playing a game with the Kremlin for their own purposes.
“My friends and I, we were just the pawns”.
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