And yet, it is now obvious that fighters from a founding NATO member, Great Britain, are inside the country -- or were until they were recently captured by Russian personnel fighting in the Ukrainian east.
According to reports, two British nationals, Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin, have been paraded on Russian TV pleading for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pick up the phone and call his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to negotiate a prisoner exchange, though it doesn't seem as though the Kremlin is in any hurry to do so.
But they don't appear to be 'regular' forces -- members of the British military. Instead, the two men could be "irregulars," or mercenaries/contract fighters sent by the alliance to fight as proxies.
Pinner and Aslin were captured separately over the past week in Mariupol, the latter actually having surrendered with other fighters in the city more than a week ago, Zero Hedge reported. The two spoke after being prompted to do so by an unidentified man in footage that has been released online, with both requesting that Johnson bring them home in exchange for pro-Russian politician and opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, who is currently being held by Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered him arrested (wait -- isn't Ukraine fighting for 'freedom' and 'democracy'?).
Pinner, 48, is a former British soldier, and he appeared alongside Aslin 28, from Nottinghamshire. The former appeared exhausted and under duress. According to Reuters, they said in the video, "We look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr. Medvedchuk. Obviously, I would really appreciate your help in this matter."
Then, the unidentified man was shown speaking to Aslin, who was sitting on a chair wearing a T-shirt that bore the emblem of Ukraine's far-right, Nazi-aligned Azov Battalion.
"I think that Boris needs to listen to what Oksana (Medvedchuk's wife) has said," said Aslin, who also appeared to be very nervous. "If Boris Johnson really does care about British citizens like he says he does, then he will help."
? JUST IN: Two British fighters who were captured in Ukraine have appeared on Russian state television and asked to be exchanged for a detained pro-Kremlin politician https://t.co/RLUVFPRzIr
— The Times (@thetimes) April 18, 2022
Here's more: "Mr. Boris Johnson. Obviously, I’m Shaun Pinner.
"A lot’s gone on over the last five or six weeks that I’m not fully aware of. Obviously, I understand that Mr. Medvedchuk has been detained and we look to exchange myself and Aiden Aslin for Mr. Medvedchuk.
"Obviously, I would really appreciate your help in this matter and pushing this agenda. Myself, I’ve been treated well. Fully understand the situation that I’m in. We’ve been fed, watered, and that’s all I can really say, but I beg on my behalf and Aiden Aslin’s behalf to help us in an exchange for Mr. Medvedchuk."
According to reports, Medvedchuk is Putin's biggest ally in Ukraine and likely would be key to Putin's installation of a puppet government in Ukraine that is loyal to Moscow, which is his objective. Last week, the Ukrainian government published a photo that showed him wearing handcuffs and military fatigues. The BBC reported that "[h]e had been under house arrest in the capital Kyiv on suspicion of treason - but escaped soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February." He was captured last week by Ukrainian state security and intelligence personnel.
"In his appeal to the Russian and Ukrainian leaders, Vladimir Putin and Volodymr Zelenskiy, Medvedchuk asked to be exchanged for the defenders of the besieged city of Mariupol – where Pinner and Aslin were based before their capture – and that any civilians be allowed to leave," the Guardian added, reporting on a video the Russia ally made.
Viktor #Medvedchuk, looking much better than his last appearance in chains, appeals to Putin and Zelensky with a proposal to exchange him for military personnel and residents in #Mariupol pic.twitter.com/nwaGIkKK2t
— Jason Corcoran (@jason_corcoran) April 18, 2022
It's quite clear by now that NATO is providing more than just weapons and intelligence to Ukraine. The alliance appears to literally be fighting a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. That can't lead to anything good.