Relatives of two Britons sentenced to death by a Russian-backed court after fighting in Ukraine have described their devastation on the news.
Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, have been accused of being mercenaries.
They were captured in Mariupol in April during the intense battle for control of the port city, before being brought to trial in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
There, according to the Russian news agency Interfax, they were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR”.
A statement from Mr Aslin’s family said the pair were not mercenaries and that they needed time to “take it all in”.
It went on: “We love Aiden with all our hearts. He and Shaun, as members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, should be treated with respect, just like any other POW.
“They are not mercenaries and never were.”
They said they hoped the verdict would be overturned and called on the British and Ukrainian governments to “do everything possible to get them back to us safely and quickly”.
It added: “We can only imagine what they are going through right now. This is a very disturbing development.”
Mr Aslin’s brother was also shocked at the news, saying his family needed time to understand the situation.
He said: “We have just been informed ourselves, currently my mother is in talks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Back in January, Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay had both Mr Pinner and Mr Aslin. meet in frontline trenches outside Mariupol.
Pinner explained that he was married to a Ukrainian, saying, “I have every right to be here…it took me a long time to integrate here, so the guys know I’m not a war tourist or a war junkie.
“I’m in an organized unit, I’m in the government and I’m a contracted soldier, so I’ve tried to stay away from that volunteer unit and militia…”
The British are fighting in the trenches of Ukraine
The Russian military has argued that what it considers foreign mercenaries fighting for Ukraine are not combatants.
A long prison term is the best they can hope for if captured, Moscow has said.
They will likely face a firing squad if the sentence is carried out. They will be attractive.
Another British fighter captured by pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill35, waiting for trial.