Two British fighters captured by Moscow’s forces in Ukraine have appeared on Russian state TV and asked to be exchanged for pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.
It was unclear how freely the two men – Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin – were able to talk.
Both spoke separately after being prompted by an unidentified man in footage broadcast on the Rossiya 24 state TV channel.
The two men asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help bring them home in exchange for Ukraine releasing captured oligarch Mr Medvedchuk, who was shown in a video released around the same time on Monday by Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service asking to be swapped too.
The families of Mr Pinner and Ms Aslin have said the British nationals are not mercenary soldiers or volunteers and should therefore be treated as prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Mr Pinner, a former British Army soldier, appeared tired in the video on Russian state TV as he said he was captured in Mariupol while fighting with the Ukrainian marines.
The 48-year-old added that he had been fighting in the besieged city for five to six weeks but was now in the breakaway region of Donetsk.
In a second heavily-edited video, Mr Pinner, who is originally from Bedfordshire, appeared to be questioned by a Russian journalist about how he was captured.
He answered: “We were in the factory area of Mariupol.
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, it was decided we move from the area of the factory, but we did not know exactly where.
“At about four in the morning we left the factory.”
There was “not much time to think,” he said.
The Russian reporter then appeared to tell Mr Pinner his Ukrainian commanders wanted him to be killed.
Mr Pinner spoke of his fear of capture in January, telling the Mail on Sunday: “I fear for my life. The Russians will treat us differently if we are captured because we are British. This is always on my mind, that I will be captured. “
In a statement released by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) after his release, Mr Pinner’s family explained how he became involved in the defense of Ukraine, which they said he considers “his adopted country”.
The statement read: “Shaun was a well-respected soldier within the British Army serving in the Royal Anglian Regiment for many years. He served in many tours including Northern Ireland and with the United Nations in Bosnia.
“In 2018 Shaun decided to relocate to Ukraine to use his previous experience and training within the Ukraine military.
“Shaun enjoyed the Ukrainian way of life and considered Ukraine as his adopted country over the last four years. During this time, he met his Ukrainian wife, who is very focused on the humanitarian needs of the country.
“He progressed into the Ukrainian Marines as a proud member of his unit.”
The statement continued: “We would like to make it clear he is not a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serving with the Ukrainian Army in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.
Mr Aslin, from Newark in Nottingham, was filmed being led around in handcuffs with a cut on his forehead after surrendering to the Russian military in Mariupol last week.
The 28-year-old had been defending Mariupol with his unit during heavy fighting in recent weeks before having to surrender after 48 days.
“We have no food and no ammunition,” a post on his Twitter account, which was being run by a friend while he was fighting with the Ukrainian marines, read.
Mr Aslin’s grandmother has said a video on Russian television showing him saying Ukraine was not making “the right decisions” was “propaganda”.
His mother Angela Wood told Sky News her son should be treated as a legitimate prisoner of war after Russian media reports suggested he was a mercenary following his capture.
Ms Wood told Sky News on Friday: “He’s not a mercenary, he’s not a volunteer, he did not go out there in the last month and think ‘I’m going to fight, I’m going to get glory’.
“He has been out there four years and he is a legitimate Ukrainian navy.”
The Foreign Office is in contact with the families of Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin and is supporting them.
However, the UK’s ability to obtain information and provide consular services on the ground is severely limited because of the conflict.
Meanwhile, Mr Medvedchuk, in his appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, asked to be exchanged for the defenders of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and any civilians allowed to leave.
The captured politician is the leader of the Opposition Platform – For Life party and is an ally of Putin.
It was unclear how freely the captured politician was speaking in the video.
Mr Medvedchuk said he was making a “plea for the Ukrainian side to exchange me for the defenders of Mariupol and its citizens who are there today have no opportunity for a safe exit through a humanitarian corridor”.
He had been placed under house arrest last year to face treason and terrorism financing charges, which he denies.
Mr Medvedchuk escaped a few days after the Russian invasion began in February, but was later captured by Ukraine.