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Britons captured in Ukraine appear on Russian TV, ask for swap with Putin ally

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Still images taken from Russian state TV show Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, the British fighters captured in the city of Mariupol. (Photo by Reuters)

Two British fighters, who were captured in Ukraine by Russian forces, appeared on Russia’s state TV and asked to be freed in exchange for pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

In a video published by Rossiya 24 [Russia-24] on Monday, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin, who fought on the Ukrainian side in Mariupol, called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to exchange them for Medvedchuk, who is being held by the Ukrainian authorities.

“I would like to appeal to the (British) government to send me back home, I would like to see my wife again,” Pinner said, making a direct and passionate appeal to Johnson.

“We look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr. Medvedchuk. Obviously I would really appreciate your help in this matter,” he pleaded.

In the footage, an unidentified man shows the two Britons a video of Medvedchuk's wife Oksana making an appeal for her husband to be swapped for the two British fighters.

Medvedchuk is a detained pro-Russia tycoon and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. He leads Ukraine's biggest opposition party, the Opposition Platform for Life.

“I think that Boris needs to listen to what Oksana has said,” says Aslin, adding that if he cared about British citizens, “he would help pressure Zelensky to do the right thing and return Viktor to his family and return us to our families.”

Ukraine on Monday aired a video showing Medvedchuk making an appeal to be exchanged in return for an evacuation of civilians and troops from the besieged port city of Mariupol.

“I want to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to exchange me for Ukrainian defenders and residents of Mariupol,” he said in the video released by Ukraine’s security services.

Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest last year to face treason and terrorism financing charges.

Two days after Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine; he managed to escape the house arrest but was recaptured by Ukrainian forces last week.

In the video, he said the troops and residents there "do not have the possibility of a safe exit through humanitarian corridors".

Earlier this month, Zelensky proposed swapping Medvedchuk for Ukraine’s male and female prisoners of war being kept by Russian forces.

Moscow, however, denied the swap offer with spokesman Dimitry Peskov saying Medvedchuk is “not a citizen of Russia” and has nothing to do with Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

A report in Britain's  Daily Mail on Monday cited the sister of Shaun Pinner, one of two British fighters held by Russian forces after being captured in Ukraine, saying that his family was in discussions about a prisoner swap.

Cassandra Pinner, 43, confirmed that Shaun's family was aware he has appeared on Russian TV asking for a prisoner exchange, after releasing a statement last night petitioning Russian forces to treat Shaun well in captivity.

"A prisoner exchange is a move that is being considered, not necessarily with Viktor Medvedchuk, but it's something being discussed.," she was quoted as saying.

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