The format of the recordings was an interview with journalist Andre Rudenko of Russian state broadcaster VGTRK. The video shows Rudenko presenting each man with a video from Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana, that was published last week demanding her husband be exchanged for the pair.
The two men then asked in English to be exchanged for Medvedchuk. It is not clear if they were coerced into making the statement, and the men spoke separately after being prompted by an unidentified party.
Pinner, who appeared nervous and tired, said: “I understand the situation. I’d like to appeal to the (British) government to send me back home. I’d like to see my wife again.”
He then directly appealed to Johnson, saying: "We look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr. Medvedchuk. Obviously, I would really appreciate your help in this matter."
The 48-year-old former British Royal Anglian Regiment soldier had been fighting alongside Ukrainian marines when Mariupol was invaded by Putin’s forces. He said he had been fighting in the besieged city for five to six weeks before being brought to Donetsk People’s Republic, although it is not clear what led to his capture. He had been living in Ukraine for around four years with his wife in Donbas.
Aslin, who also looked nervous, said: "I think that Boris (Johnson) needs to listen to what Oksana (Medvedchuk's wife) has said."
"If Boris Johnson really does care like he says he does about British citizens, then he would help pressure Zelensky to do the right thing and return Viktor to his family and return us to our families."
The British Foreign Office has not commented on the footage, but a statement by the Pinner family indicated that they are working with the Foreign Office to ensure the men's rights as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention are being upheld.
Aslin's mother said that her 28-year-old son had been serving in the Ukrainian armed forces and is therefore a prisoner of war who must be treated with humanity. He is believed to have surrendered to the Russian military after his battalion ran out of ammunition.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky previously proposed exchanging Medvedchuk for Ukrainians who are being held in Russia. Medvedchuk is the leader of the Ukraine Opposition Platform – For Life party and has long advocated for closer ties between Ukraine and Russia. He had been confined to his home since May 2021 and charged with high treason and aiding terrorism. Three days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities said Medvedchuk escaped house arrest. Last week, he was captured by Ukraine. Medvedchuk has denied wrongdoing and claims to be a victim of politically motivated repression.
Jayson Pihajlic, a former U.S. marine who fought alongside the men in the past and spoke to them when they joined the Ukrainian resistance, expressed his concerns about their treatment.
“It’s horrible to see. They’re obviously being beaten up and that’s the least we can say – who knows what else is going on. They’re being labelled as mercenaries, but these guys are not mercenaries – they are proper, uniformed, Ukrainian soldiers,” he said, pointing out that Putin has already made it clear he does not respect the Geneva conventions by cluster-bombing cities filled with civilians.
Sources for this article include: