A rally was held today (June 26th) by members of the Nottingham Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (NUSC) who are campaigning for the UK government to do more to support UK foreign nationals who have been sentenced to death by a Russian proxy-court in eastern Ukraine.
The issue is of significant local importance as one of the three men recently sentenced to death is local man Aiden Aslin, 28. Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner from Bedfordshire and Brahim Saadoun from Morocco were sentenced in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic on 9th June. They were accused of being mercenaries and despite not meeting the UN definition of a mercenary (See Article 1 (b) and (d): https://www.ohchr.org/en/
NUSC believe that these three men are legitimate combatants in the war in Ukraine and should be treated as and given their full rights as POWs as defined in the Geneva Conventions. If their executions go ahead then those involved would be guilty of a war crime.
The rally was attended by about 120 people and local community leaders gave speeches in support of Ukraine and Aiden Aslin.
Speeches were given by Councillor Mike Edwards, Nadia Whittome MP for Nottingham East and Michael Holod branch chair of Nottingham Ukrainian Cultural Centre.
Members of the Nottingham Stands with Hong Kong and the Kurdish community also spoke in solidairty with Aiden and the wider campaign against totalitarianism. Some members of the local Russian community also spoke and flew the white-blue-white anti-war flag.
The event was held in the centre of Nottingham at Old Market Square near the Council House. Nottingham is home to a large Ukrainian population and at the start of the current invasion de-twinned with former twin cities Minsk (Belarus) and Krasnodar (Russia) in solidarity with Ukraine.
NUSC organiser, Pete Radcliff, said: “This weekend is the four month anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Since the invasion began we have been protesting in Nottingham against the war crimes of Putin’s forces amongst which may soon be his treatment of two UK born and one Moroccan born Ukrainian soldiers including Newark born Aiden Aslin.
“This week his captors in Russia’s proxy state of Donetsk got him to make a phone call to his family saying that his execution was imminent and the UK government were doing nothing.
“In 2015 Aiden travelled to Syria. After ISIS armed themselves from the Iraqi army, they took over Ezidi towns, slaughtered the men and made sex-slaves of the women. They unleashed a brutal offensive against the Kurdish people.
“Aiden went over to fight with the Kurdish YPG against ISIS.
“After ISIS were defeated, Aiden went to live in Ukraine with his Ukrainian girlfriend now fiancée. He joined the Ukrainian regular military and was captured after the Russians flattened Mariupol.
“In breach of the Geneva Conventions, and because it fits Putin’s narrative of a planned Western invasion of Russia, he has now been sentenced to death as a mercenary. I know Aiden. He is no mercenary. He sees himself as a fighter for freedom in the spirit of the International Brigade.
“We need to defend him and all the other POWs held by an unaccountable proxy-power of Russia in Donetsk. The UK government must act to release Aiden and the others similarly sentenced.
“We have to demand that Putin’s war, his war-crimes and his occupation of parts of Ukraine ends.”
Michael Holod, branch chair of the Nottingham Ukrainian Cultural Centre, said: “It is very important that we show our support to non-Ukrainians who are putting their lives on the line as well as our own soldiers and show contempt to the jumped up separatist courts. They are not recognised legally and are nothing more than a sham and do not recognise the Geneva Convention on the treatment of Prisoners of War.”
NUSC organiser, Tim Porter, said: “To receive a phone call from your own son saying that he is certain he is soon to be executed must be one of the worst torments a parent could go through. Everyone at the rally today wishes a favourable outcome for the families of Aiden, Shaun and Brahim.
“If the despicable act of these executions goes ahead then this would be one more war crime committed by Russian forces but this time against a UK national which is why our government must get involved.
“The UK Foreign Office has said that it fully supports Ukrainian efforts to secure the release of these men, but understandably Ukraine is not without its own problems at the moment and the UK government must do more than wash its hands of the matter by leaving it to Ukraine. We can only hope that they are working behind the scenes on this matter and not publicising their efforts.
“The International Bar Association has stated that if the execution is carried out then this would be a war crime. Although many war crimes have been carried out by members of the Russian army, Russia always denies them, but in this case they are happy to shout about it on their own TV networks.”