A British ex-prisoner of war has opened up on the harrowing experience he endured at the hands of Russian soldiers who treated him "worse than a dog".
Aiden Aslin, 28, volunteered as a soldier in a bid to help Ukraine's forces fight off the Russian invasion. But after his battalion surrendered to the opposition he was taken into captivity where he spent five months being tortured before his release.
The Nottingham-born former care worker returned home to Newark-on-Trent relieved on Thursday, having escaped a death penalty handed to him back in July, admitting to The Sun : "I never thought I'd get out alive."
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It was back in April that Aiden was first taken captive after his troop were forced to give in due to running out of food supplies, having been embroiled in weeks of fighting in Mariupol. Aiden revealed he phoned his mother Angela and Ukrainian girlfriend Diane to break the news, insisting: "No matter what, I will see you again."
But his nightmare was only just beginning.
He was immediately punched in the face after informing Russian soldiers he was British and was subject to harsh treatment from his captors over the months to come, including being stabbed.
Aiden recalled: "The officer was smoking a cigarette and knelt down in front of me to ask, 'Do you know who I am?' I said 'No' and he replied in Russian, 'I am your death.'
"He said, 'Did you see what I did to you?'. He pointed to my back. He showed me his knife and I realised he'd stabbed me.
"He then asked me, 'Do you want a quick death or a beautiful death?'
"I replied in Russian, 'A quick death.' He smiled and said 'No, you're going to have a beautiful death… and I'm going to make sure it's a beautiful death.'"
Aiden explained how he "couldn't cry" or show any weakness, even when he was handed his death penalty in a sham trial in Donetsk. His mother, Angela, even received phone calls from the Russian captors but stayed strong for her son.
Despite his ordeal, Aiden says he was always knew there would eventually be some "light at the end of the tunnel".
What he didn't know is that, bizarrely, it would come in the form of former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who reportedly helped mediate the prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which eventually allowed Aiden and four other Brits to make their way home to the UK via Saudi Arabia.
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"I’m looking at a group of Saudis and one of the lads says, 'Is that Roman Abramovich?'" Aiden recalls, before being greeted by the Russian oligarch, who said: "It’s good to have you here."
Aiden's efforts alongside his fellow troops have been commended by officers in Ukraine after they returned home safe and well on Thursday morning. "All those guys did their best to defend democracy and freedom," Mr Mamuka Mamulashvili, who commands the Georgian Legion the troops are believed to have served in, told the PA news agency.
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