Ukraine captive ‘sentenced to death but I nearly starved’

Image source, Family photo

Image caption,

Shaun Pinner (pictured in an old family photo) said his time in captivity was a "dark time" that has left him very emotional

A British national who was held by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine said he nearly starved to death while being held captive.

Shaun Pinner, from Bedfordshire, said he was only given "bread and water" about 50 of the days he was held.

He was captured in April, while fighting in port city of Mariupol, and was released in September.

Over five months he was electrocuted, tasered, stabbed in the leg and pistol-whipped, he said.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Mr Pinner, wearing orange, as he arrived in Saudi Arabia in September

Shaun Pinner, 49, used to be a soldier in the British Army and moved to Ukraine in 2018, where he lived with his wife and son.

Along with Aiden Aslin, from Nottinghamshire, they were put on trial in the self-declared and Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic and told they faced the death sentence.

Saudi Arabia said it had brokered an exchange between Russia and Ukraine of 10 detainees, including the two men, and three other Britons – John Harding, Dylan Heal and Andrew Hill.

Since he was released he has been staying with his family in Bedfordshire, and planned to move back to Ukraine.

"We were treated badly – electrocuted, tasered, stabbed in the leg, pistol-whipped and taken to a black site," he said.

A black site is a military term for a location where people are held without being charged with any crime and without access to legal support.

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He told BBC Three Counties Radio he was interrogated and had everything taken from him, including his wedding ring.

He said they were made to sit in front of a camera and filmed eating as "part of the propaganda" as the guards would "take you back and starve you for two days… it was just dreadful".

"We got sentenced to death but I really thought we would be starved to death long before I'd ever be shot," he said.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Aiden Aslin (left) and Shaun Pinner (centre) were sentenced alongside Moroccan national Brahim Saaudun

He praised Roman Abramovich, the Russian businessman and former owner of Chelsea FC, for "brokering the deal" to get them to Saudi Arabia.

He was also thankful for the support of his North East Bedfordshire's Conservative MP, Richard Fuller, as well as ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was foreign secretary at the time.

"Liz Truss was amazing, obviously she's had a bit of a bad time recently, but she wrote to my mum… her department kept everyone informed," he said.

"If the war ends I'd love to go back and settle – it's a great country."

He confirmed he would not fight again as he "can't risk being caught again".

"I've made a commitment to the family that it's done and I'll just help in other ways; I can't let them go through all that again," he said.

Image source, Aiden Aslin

Image caption,

Shaun Pinner (centre, with John Harding on the left and Aiden Aslin on the right) said when they were released others on the plane told them they looked "a right sorry bunch"

His mother, Debra Pinner, said it had been a "really difficult year" but she was now planning "the best Christmas ever".

"There were times when I thought I would never see my son again," she said.

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