YouTube blogger 'in danger of committing war crime' over propaganda interview of British POW in Ukraine

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read

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(Twitter/Graham Phillips)
Graham Phillips held an interview with Aiden Aslin, who is being held by Russian forces in Ukraine. (Twitter/Graham Phillips)

A UK blogger has been accused of potentially breaching the Geneva Convention over his interview with a British prisoner of war taken captive during the Ukraine conflict, an MP has said.

Aiden Aslin, originally from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, surrendered to Russian forces after fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol last week.

Images aired on Russian television earlier this week appeared to show Aslin, 27, being led around in handcuffs with a cut on his forehead in an apparent breach of Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention, which states that "prisoners of war must be protected at all times, particularly from public curiosity".

On Tuesday a video emerged of pro-Kremlin YouTuber and fellow “Nottingham lad” Graham Phillips interrogating him while reportedly being held in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.

During the 45-minute video Phillips repeatedly calls him a "mercenary", rather than an official combatant, and tells him the crime is punishable by death in the region.

(Twitter/@cossackgundi)
Aiden Aslin, originally from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, joined the Ukrainian marines in 2018 and had been fighting with his unit in Mariupol. (Twitter/@cossackgundi)
Graham Phillips is a pro-Kremlin blogger who has been in Ukraine during the war (Graham Phillips)
Graham Phillips is a pro-Kremlin blogger who has been in Ukraine during the war. (Graham Phillips)

He also asks Aslin to confirm he is speaking of his own free will, whilst being held by the Russians and being handcuffed.

In the introduction to the interview, Phillips says he is not breaching the Geneva Convention as Aslin is a "mercenary" and so prisoner of war (POW) status does not apply.

However, he claims that as they are "nice, polite people", he will abide by the rules of the convention.

The convention is a series of treaties which establish legal standards for humanitarian treatment of prisoners and civilians during a war.

Speaking at PMQs on Wednesday, Aslin's local MP, Robert Jenrick, said Phillips was "in danger of prosecution of war crimes" over posting the video, and had in fact breached the convention.

"My constituent Aiden Aslin has served in the Ukrainian armed forces for four years. Last week he was captured by the Russian army in Mariupol," he told the Commons.

"Yesterday a video emerged of my constituent handcuffed, physically injured and being interviewed under duress for propaganda purposes.

Robert Jenrick said the interview of Aiden Aslin breached the Geneva Convention (Parliament)
Robert Jenrick said the interview of Aiden Aslin breached the Geneva Convention. (Parliament)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday April 20, 2022.
Boris Johnson outright rejected Phillips claim Aslin was a mercenary stating Aslin had been in the armed forces for a number of years before the Russian invasion.(PA)

Addressing Boris Johnson directly, Jenrick asked: "Would my right honourable friend agree with me that this is a flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention?

"That treating any prisoner of war in this manner is illegal and that the interviewer Graham Phillips is in danger of prosecution of war crimes and that any online platform such as YouTube which hosts propaganda videos of this kind should take them down immediately?"

Johnson rejected Phillips' claim that Aslin was a mercenary, stating he had been in the armed forces for a number of years before the Russian invasion.

He responded: "I think everyone will want to urge the Russian state to treat his constituent humanely and compassionately because in my view, although we do not encourage in fact we actively dissuade people from going to that theatre of conflict, I understand he'd been serving in the Ukrainian forces for some time.

"His situation is very different to that of a mercenary."

In a statement issued on Tuesday, relatives of Aslin denounced claims he was a “volunteer, a mercenary, or a spy” as propaganda issued by the Kremlin.

They said: “In 2018 Aiden moved to Ukraine where he met his girlfriend and eventually settled down in Mykolaiv.

Watch: Starmer accuses PM of criticising BBC Ukraine coverage

“Aiden decided to join the Ukrainian marines and has served in his unit for nearly four years.

“He is not, contrary to the Kremlin’s propaganda, a volunteer, a mercenary, or a spy. Aiden was making plans for his future outside the military, but like all Ukrainians, his life was turned upside down by Putin’s barbarous invasion.

“He has played his part in defending Ukraine’s right to self-determination. The video of Aiden speaking under duress and having clearly suffered physical injuries is deeply distressing.

“Using images and videos of prisoners of war is in contravention of the Geneva Convention and must stop."

A second British national, 48-year-old Shaun Pinner, has also been captured in Mariupol.

In footage broadcast on Russia’s Rossiya 24 on Monday, Pinner addressed Johnson and appeared to ask for himself and Aslin to be swapped for pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who has been held in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s former defence minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk told The Times the two Britons were legitimate members of the country’s armed forces.

Parading Aslin and Pinner on state television was a violation of the Geneva Convention, Zagorodnyuk said.

He told the newspaper: “There is a very clear process in Ukraine to accept international soldiers or service people. It has been fully legal, it has been official.

“Mercenaries usually are people making money (from conflict). That’s totally not the case that we’ve got here.”

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