The parading of Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin by the Russian government is an appalling, but not unexpected, contravention of the laws of war. Their surrender in Mariupol is similar to the situation of the last British prisoners-of-war in World War One, who surrendered in Siberia and were transported to Moscow during the Russian civil war. They can expect to be treated as high-value political prisoners, which is better than captured enemy soldiers, who Russia treats with barbarous contempt.
They will still be psychologically “leant-on” to revoke their previous loyalties and interrogated to give away details of Ukrainian locations, tactics and command structures. However, their value as Prominente will mean that they will not suffer the same physical degradations as the other Ukrainian marines captured in the besieged port.
The proposal to exchange them for a Russian political prisoner is also not new. In 1920, Brian Horrocks and the other British soldiers were exchanged for the political envoy Babushkin and seven other Bolsheviks in a convoluted operation that took the best part of six weeks to conclude. It will be very distressing for Shaun and Aiden’s families, but hopefully history will repeat itself and the story will have a similar ending to Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners.