British fighter tells how he was captured and tortured in Ukraine

‘I was screaming … and then I had 200 volts go through me on the chair’: British fighter captured in Ukraine reveals electric shock torture ordeal at the hands of Russian-backed captors

  • Former British Army soldier was among those in a prisoner swap last September 
  • Pinner moved to Ukraine with his wife before the war and worked with the army 

A former British soldier has revealed how he was beaten, tortured and electrocuted after he was captured by Russian-backed forces.

Shaun Pinner, 49, said in an interview he felt his ‘muscles were popping out of his body’, blood pouring from his legs, after his captors attached clips and ran 200 volts of electricity through his body and left him unable to walk.

Pinner was detained during the fall of Mariupol in the early months of the war as he was coming to the end of a contract to train soldiers and planning to go into a humanitarian role later that year. 

Talking to Sky he recalled how soldiers drove him 45 minutes to a wet room in an office, tied him up, stabbed him, cut off his clothes and beat him while calling him a Nazi and ignoring his pleas of innocence.

There, he endured several ‘excruciating’ shocks that caused his legs to inflate. When he took off his thermals, he found he was bleeding from the damage to his body.

‘I was screaming,’ he said. ‘And then I had 200 volts go through me on the chair. I couldn’t feel my leg anymore.

‘As soon as I got there they sellotaped my hands and legs to the chair and then I felt the clips go on to my little fingers… and then I knew exactly what that was.’

Shaun Pinner (R) was captured by Russian forces as he came to the end of his contract in 2022. He is pictured here with fellow Brit Aidan Aslin (L) and Brahim Saadoun (C) in a courtroom cage

A still from Saudi state TV in September shows Pinner smiling after his negotiated release

Shaun was working in his adopted hometown of Mariupol (pictured here as a tank fires upon a block of flats in March 2022) when he was captured by Russian-backed forces

Pinner was captured and charged with being a foreign mercenary and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk.

He was working local to the region annexed last September, which has been staffed with armed Russian-backed separatists since 2014, when he was taken prisoner and ‘made an example of’.

READ MORE: 365 days of Putin’s bloodshed: As the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion nears, a comprehensive look at how the war unfolded, how close we are to WW3 and all the key aspects of the conflict


Pinner had risen through the ranks in the Ukrainian armed forces after serving with the British Army for nine years, fighting in both Bosnia and later as a volunteer against ISIS.

After retiring from the Royal Anglican Regiment he moved with his Ukrainian wife and joined the local armed forces in 2018, becoming a squad commander.

He was captured in April 2022 in his adopted home city of Mariupol and sentenced to death only months before the end of his contract.

Pinner had hoped to go on into a humanitarian role, saving lives.

When the European Court of Human Rights told Russia not to kill Pinner and fellow British-born prisoner Aiden Aslin, Russia claimed it was not bound by the order. 

Shaun Pinner, Aiden Aslin, John Harding, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill were ultimately set free from captivity in a deal reportedly organised by ex-Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.

He previously spoke on how he was abused with a cattle prod by his captors after they found out he was a West Ham supporter. 

‘We developed over time a comedic rapport with some of the guards,’ he said.

‘It was a strange feeling because we were told we were the enemy, but sometimes we would actually have some dialogue with them,’ he said.

‘They were interested in who we are, what London is like…’

He spoke of one occasion when he was in the prosecutor’s office and the guards were asking what football team he supported.

Pinner said he was buzzed with a cattle prod for saying ‘West – [Ham]’ – before he quickly changed his answer to the local Ukrainian football team.

‘I said ‘Shakhtar Donetsk, Shakhtar Donetsk!’ and they were laughing and building that rapport,’ he said. 

Pinner served in the British Army before moving to Ukraine and becoming a squad commander

Pinner’s service in the Ukrainian marines should have entitled him to the rights of a prisoner of war, as outlined in the Geneva Convention.

Russia presented Pinner as a mercenary, a category not entitled to the status of a prisoner of war.

A mercenary is recruited to fight in an armed conflict, takes an active role in the fighting and does so essentially for the promise of personal gain, i.e. contracted payment.

A mercenary is also defined as someone who is not a national to the country or region they are fighting for, nor sent by the army or a state into active service.

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