Freed British hostage Shaun Pinner has revealed he was knocked unconscious with a cattle prod for being a West Ham fan while being held captive by Russian forces in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, John Harding, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill were released from captivity by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Wednesday after being sentenced to death and spending months in detention.
Former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich is said to have brokered the prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which saw the Britons return home via Saudi Arabia.
This morning Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner, 48, were seen in their first joint live TV interview since finally returning home to their families.
Mr Pinner told ITV’s Good Morning Britain of the treatment he suffered at the hands of Russian-backed guards – and how he was punished in response to the football team he supported.
Shaun Pinner has revealed he was knocked unconscious with a cattle prod for being a West Ham fan while being held captive by Russian forces in Ukraine
Mr Aslin, 28, and Mr Pinner, 48, were seen in their first joint live TV interview since finally returning home to their families.
Mr Aslin said he ‘still hadn’t settled down’ that he was back in the UK as he spoke about their experience
“We developed a comedic relationship with some of the guards over time,” he said.
“It was a weird feeling because we were told we were the enemy, but sometimes we actually had a dialogue with them,” he said.
“They were interested in who we are, what London looks like…”
He talked about an occasion when he was in the prosecutor’s office and the guards asked him which football team he supported.
Mr Pinner said he was buzzed with a cattle prod for saying “West – [Ham]’ – before he quickly changed his response to the local Ukrainian football team.
‘I said ‘Shakhtar Donetsk, Shakhtar Donetsk!’ and they were laughing and building that rapport,” he said.
Mr Pinner said he was buzzed with a cattle prod for saying “West – [Ham]’ – before he quickly changed his response to the local Ukrainian football team
The couple were released from captivity by Russian-backed forces in the Donetsk region of Ukraine
Home safe: Aiden (right) posted a photo on Instagram on the plane home alongside fellow ex-hostages Shaun Pinner (second right), John Harding (left) and Dylan Healy (seated behind)
Mr Pinner – who explained how his wife encouraged them to keep fighting – is back home with his family
Mr Aslin, who said he was beaten, stabbed and psychologically tormented, said he was ‘still not settled’ that he was back home in the UK.
He told GMB: ‘It’s still a bit surreal because as I’ve said before, literally this time last week I was in solitary confinement, we were treated in horrendous conditions there and I expected to be killed or spend at least 10 years minimum there, so it hasn’t fully settled in yet.
He said they had been on their guard for six months because of everything that had happened.
British captives granted last minute reprieve months after being sentenced to death
The Foreign Office released this undated image of Shaun smiling with his family, believed to have been taken after he returned home in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Aiden promised his Ukrainian girlfriend Diane Okovyta that he would see her again. But during the five months spent in solitary confinement, he confessed: ‘I never thought I would make it out alive’
Mr Pinner said the experience of being detained by Russian-backed forces in the Donetsk region was “very frightening”, despite his training in the British army and his awareness of the risks of being captured while he was fighting for Ukraine.
He was asked about a time when he was about to give up, after being sentenced to death, and called his wife saying “I think it’s all over”.
Mr Pinner told GMB his wife replied: “You have brought Mariupol to the world’s attention, you are fighters, what you are doing is amazing, tell the guys to keep fighting.” Just survive – she shouted at us. This allowed us to continue until the end.
Asked about the supportive comments made by Liz Truss when she was Foreign Secretary about the British fighting in Ukraine, Mr Pinner added: “Obviously we have a lot of thanks to give Liz Truss…the ministry Foreign Affairs was great, but when we saw that, we knew all kinds of people were showing up in Ukraine and then wanted to be part of the war.
“We had actually integrated, spent time there learning the language (and had military training in Ukraine), so they wanted us to help train their guys and we kind of fell back into working in that aspect. .”
Pinner (right) and Aslin (left) were sentenced to death, along with Moroccan Saaudun Brahim (centre) in June this year by a pro-Russian separatist court.
Aiden Aslin is back home in Balderton, Newark, after being freed by Russian separatists after months in detention
Ms Truss later withdrew her support for British citizens joining the battle after being contradicted by colleagues, insisting instead that she had just ‘expressed her support for the Ukrainian cause’.
The exhausted group landed in Britain in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The release came after a deal was brokered by the Saudi Crown Prince to release a total of 10 POWs who had been captured during the fighting.
Harding, Pinner and Aslin were hailed as defenders of “democracy and freedom” by their former commander in Ukraine.
They are believed to have served in the Georgian Legion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer unit, under Mamuka Mamulashvili.
Mr Pinner’s sister Cassandra earlier told MailOnline: ‘We are just relieved he is home safe and sound, there are no words to express how grateful we are.
“He is in a good mood, he is always funny, even in this difficult time. Health-wise, he is doing surprisingly well too.
Meanwhile, Mr Aslin spoke of his ‘traumatic experience’ as he was reunited with his family at his home in Balderton, Nottinghamshire.