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The Independent

Briton free of captivity says Roman Abramovich welcomed them onto aircraft



Certainly one of 5 Britons launched from captivity by Russian-backed forces has stated that former Chelsea Soccer Membership proprietor Roman Abramovich welcomed them onto their flight out of Russia.

In an interview with The Solar, John Harding stated Mr Abramovich recognized himself to Shaun Pinner, whereas Mr Harding spoke to Mr Abramovich’s assistant who stated the Russian had performed a “key half” of their launch.

It’s understood Mr Harding was let out on Wednesday alongside Mr Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, touchdown in Britain within the early hours of Thursday morning.

Mr Abramovich introduced he would promote Chelsea on March 2, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Shaun Pinner together with his household (Overseas, Commonwealth & Growth Workplace/PA)

(PA Media)

The 55-year-old was then sanctioned by the UK Authorities on March 10, with Downing Road claiming to have confirmed his hyperlinks to Vladimir Putin.

“Shaun was chatting away to him about soccer for a very long time and I used to be talking to his assistant,” Mr Harding instructed The Solar.

“She stated Roman had performed a key half in getting us again. It’s fairly extraordinary to suppose he was concerned — and I wouldn’t have even been in a position to inform you who he was by him.

“He’s properly revered by Ukrainians and massively by us now, too — he’s carried out a hell of rather a lot for us and we couldn’t thank him sufficient.

“He was a sound bloke, a extremely pretty man. He’s a legend — we completely love him and I’m so grateful for his efforts.”

Mr Pinner’s household stated he was “in good spirits” and “is wanting ahead to steak and a glass of purple wine” following his launch.

A courtroom within the self-proclaimed Donetsk Individuals’s Republic had sentenced Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin to dying in July.



It’s been a harrowing time for Shaun and our household which has now had such a contented decision

Pinner household assertion

They’d each lived in Ukraine for quite a few years and have been serving with its common forces when the full-scale battle broke out.

In an announcement launched by the Foreign Office, Mr Pinner’s household stated: “We wish to thank all people concerned in Shaun’s launch, particularly all on the Overseas Workplace, Liz Truss and her workforce, Boris Johnson and (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelensky.

“Shaun would additionally wish to thank the hospitality of the Saudi Authorities and Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud who additionally assisted within the negotiations for his freedom.

“It’s a really emotional time as you’ll be able to count on and we’re unable to presently talk about so early in his launch any particulars totally. It’s been a harrowing time for Shaun and our household which has now had such a contented decision. Shaun is in good spirits and nonetheless has his sense of humour intact. He’s wanting ahead to steak and a glass of purple wine tonight.

“We at the moment are having fun with some household time and would admire the privateness at this second.”

A photograph issued by the Overseas Workplace appeared to point out a beaming Mr Pinner together with his family members.

Three of the British nationals freed by pro-Russian forces have been hailed as defenders of “democracy and freedom” by their former commander in Ukraine.

Mr Harding, Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin are believed to have served within the Georgian Legion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer unit, underneath Mamuka Mamulashvili.

“All these guys did their finest to defend democracy and freedom,” Mr Mamulashvili instructed the PA information company.



He is likely one of the finest representatives of his nation who got here right here to defend Ukraine and I give him my respect

Mamuka Mamulashvili

“They have been within the Georgian Legion at roughly the identical time… they usually have been good guys.

“It was essential for us to get these guys out of captivity as a result of I’ve been in captivity myself and I do know what it’s.”

Mr Mamulashvili singled out Mr Harding, a veteran of the British Military, for his contribution to the legion, the place he skilled youthful volunteers as an teacher.

“He is likely one of the finest representatives of his nation who got here right here to defend Ukraine and I give him my respect,” he stated.

Non-profit organisation the Presidium Community, which has supported the household of Mr Healy, instructed PA that each one 5 had landed safely within the UK and been reunited with their households.

Dominik Byrne, co-founder of the organisation, stated: “We don’t know precisely in the event that they’ve all returned again to their properties but, however we do know they’re with households for the time being.”

The Overseas Workplace has not commented on the whereabouts of the lads.

Mr Aslin’s launch was confirmed by his native MP Robert Jenrick.



The very first thing I wanted to do was to provide him an enormous hug and ensure it was actual. It nonetheless does not really feel actual now

Angela Wooden, Aiden Aslin’s mom

His mom, Angela Wooden, instructed the BBC that at occasions she thought she would “by no means see him alive once more”.

“His launch occurred in a single day, I’m nonetheless in shock,” she stated.

“The very first thing I wanted to do was to provide him an enormous hug and ensure it was actual. It nonetheless doesn’t really feel actual now.”

Ms Wooden additionally stated the Russian separatists who have been holding Mr Aslin, over a interval she described as “torture” for the household, would contact her asking her for cash.

A video emerged late on Wednesday of two males sitting inside an airliner, by which Mr Aslin launched himself and Mr Pinner, including: “We simply wish to let everybody know that we’re now out of the hazard zone and we’re on our manner dwelling to our households.”

Mr Pinner interjected, saying “by the pores and skin of our enamel”, as Mr Aslin continued: “We simply need everybody to know the excellent news and so forth, so because of everybody that’s been supporting us and what not, so it’s actually muchly appreciated.”

Mr Pinner added: “Because of all people.”

Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was visiting New York for a UN summit, tweeted: “Vastly welcome information that 5 British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in jap Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and struggling for them and their households.”

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