Foreign Office team helping families of Britons detained by pro-Russian forces
A Foreign Office team has been set up to support the families of British nationals who were captured by pro-Russian forces during the war in Ukraine.
Five Britons are currently being held after being captured in Ukraine, including two on death row in what the Foreign Office considers to be “sham trials”.
A court in the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Dontesk has sentenced two Britons to death: Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner.
They have both lived in Ukraine for several years and were serving in its regular forces when full-scale war broke out.
A group of officials from the Foreign Office’s Crisis Management Department spoke to reporters about the status of British citizens in Ukraine.
Officials said lessons learned during the evacuation operation in Afghanistan last summer were applied when the crisis in Ukraine escalated earlier this year, but the two conflicts evolved in different ways.
David Sharp, co-head of the Ukrainian consular team, said: “We have a team set up to look after the families of those who have been detained in Ukraine.
“So we are in regular contact with the families and give them all the support and advice we can.”
The amount of aid that can be provided is limited because the Foreign Ministry is not present on the ground, he said.
The Geneva Convention stipulates that prisoners of war must be treated humanely.
Mr Sharp said: ‘We have expressed our concerns about the treatment of the men and that they should not be used for political purposes, and that they are prisoners of war and should be treated in accordance international humanitarian law.”
The British government does not recognize the authority of the separatist forces currently holding the men in the Donbas region, meaning contact has been made with the Russian government.
Mr Sharp said: ‘We don’t recognize the people holding them.
“The fictitious judgments that were handed down against these guys – we don’t recognize the system they put in place.”
British nationals who have signed up to fight in the Ukrainian Armed Forces are considered Ukraine’s responsibility, he said.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are doing everything we can to support the men and are in close contact with and helping their families.
“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war for political purposes and we have spoken about it with Russia.
“We are in constant contact with the Ukrainian government on their cases and fully support Ukraine in its efforts to free them.”