Five Britons held by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have been released and are being safely returned, Liz Truss has said.
The Prime Minister tweeted: ‘Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.
She thanked the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “and Saudi Arabia” for their assistance.
“Russia must end the ruthless exploitation of prisoners of war and civilian detainees for political purposes,” she added.
Health Minister Robert Jenrick said one of those freed was his constituent Aiden Aslin.
In April, he was one of two British men captured by Russian forces and accused of being a mercenary.
They appeared in court in the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine.
The identity of those released has not yet been confirmed by the government.
Mr Jenrick tweeted: “I am delighted that my constituent, Aiden Aslin, and the other British POWs held by the Russian authorities have finally been released and are on their way back to the UK.”
He said he was “deeply grateful” to the Ukrainian government, as well as the Saudi Crown Prince and the “detainee team” at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who he said were involved in obtaining the Liberation.
“Aiden’s return ends months of agonizing uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark, who have suffered daily from Aiden’s bogus trial but have never given up hope. As they are united again as a family, they can finally be at peace.”
US nationals also freed
The Foreign Office had been working for months to support those detained, but Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is also believed to have been involved in the release of British nationals.
Besides the five Britons, two US military veterans who disappeared while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces have also been freed after about three months in captivity.
Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, both from Alabama, were reported missing after their unit came under heavy fire in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, June 9.
months of suffering
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly welcomed the news of all the releases.
“This ends many months of uncertainty and suffering, including the threat of the death penalty, for them and their families, at the hands of Russia,” he added.
Although he also remembered Paul Urey, a British humanitarian volunteer who died earlier this year while being held in similar circumstances, he said “our thoughts are with the family”.