The devastated mum of Aiden Aslin, the British fighter captured and paraded on Russian propaganda broadcasts in Ukraine, says she just wants "her hero back”.
Russia claims that more than 1,000 troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered in Mariupol after weeks of bombardment from Russian aircraft and artillery.
Aiden's mum Ang Wood, 50, said: "Two weeks ago, I got a phone call from him saying: 'I think we are surrendering, we have no ammunition, no food, we have no water.
"And then last Tuesday, early hours, I got to speak to Aiden again. It was a very short message that he was surrendering."
Aiden, 28, left his hometown in Nottinghamshire to move to Ukraine in 2018, where he joined the military not long after.
He previously fought two tours with the Kurdish YPG group in Syria against ISIS forces between 2015 and 2016.
He then met a girl from Ukraine but his dream of finally settling down and starting a family was cut short, Ang told Nottinghamshire Live. "When the war was declared, their wedding plans had to be put back. They were due to get married last month, and obviously he could not.
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Most recently, images of Aiden in handcuffs appeared in a Russian propaganda video.
In the video Aiden was quizzed by Graham William Phillips, also believed to be coincidentally from Nottingham. Phillips has previously worked for the Kremlin-backed television channel RT and been accused of spreading Moscow’s propaganda.
Speaking of her immense heartbreak, Ang said: "I am disgusted. My son is being humiliated and used as a tool to spread Russian propaganda. It is horrendous. It is a breach of the Geneva convention."
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During the film, Aiden answers “no” when asked several times if he is speaking under duress. Questioned by Phillips, he recounts his time with the Ukrainian military and repeats several of Moscow’s propaganda lines, including that he is a mercenary and not a legitimate combatant.
Ang added: "This was a scripted interview, it is absolutely disgusting. Seeing my son handcuffed saying those things that he does not believe in. People are dying, my son is being beaten up and all he cares about is doing his manipulative interviews.
"Aiden is a hero, he is our nation's hero who fought for Ukraine. He is a human being who fought for other human beings."
Aiden’s local MP Robert Jenrick expressed concern about his plight.
He highlighted Aiden's situation during Prime Minister's Questions and PMBoris Johnson responded: "I think everybody will want to urge the Russian state to treat his constituent humanely and compassionately because in my view, although we do not encourage people to… in fact we actively dissuade people from going to that theatre of conflict… I understand he had been serving in the Ukrainian forces for some time and his situation was very different from that of a mercenary.
"I hope that he is treated with care and compassion and I thoroughly echo the sentiments that my Right Honourable friend expresses about those who broadcast propaganda messages."
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