‘My life depends on it’: British man asks Boris Johnson for help after capture by Russian forces


A British man who was captured by Russian forces in Ukraine appealed for help from Boris Johnson after being told he could be handed a death sentence.

John Harding, who is in his 50s and originally from Sunderland, is believed to have been captured while fighting with the Azov Regiment, part of the Ukrainian National Guard, while helping to defend the city of Mariupol in May.

Ukrainian forces were forced to surrender in the southeastern port city after it a relentless bombardment.

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In a video shared on the Telegram messaging app by Russian journalist Kim Marina on Friday, Mr Harding says: “I would say to Boris Johnson, if you can help, if you can influence President Zelenskyy, if you can influence the president of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), or if you can influence President Putin, then please do.

“People’s lives are depending on this. So if you can, please help.

“Because otherwise I face the death penalty, my friends face the death penalty.”

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Mr Harding’s friends and family have confirmed to the BBC it is him in the video, and his relatives are being supported by the Foreign Office.

He had been fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2018 before he was captured.

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Later in the video, Ms Marina asks Mr Harding what his last words would be to his daughter Katherine if he was handed a death sentence.

Mr Harding replies: “Obviously, I would tell her that I wish I’d spent more time with her, but I didn’t. I don’t really know.”

When he asked if he would tell her if her loves her, Mr Harding takes a puff on a cigarette before saying: “Of course. All fathers love their daughters.”

The age of Mr Harding’s daughter has not been reported.

Ms Marina writes in a post accompanying the video that the clip will be featured in a documentary she has made called “Nazi Punishers”, and adds that “two Britons have already been sentenced to death” in the same cell.


She doesn’t name the men, but British fighters Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, who were both captured in Mariupol, were sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court in the DPR last month.

Mr Harding would therefore also be being held in the DPR if he has been sharing a cell with the two men.

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‘God will judge me’: Aiden Aslin reacts to death sentence

Foreign Office criticises ‘sham judgements’

Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner moved to Ukraine around the same time as Mr Harding in 2018 and made the country their home.

The two men were found to be mercenaries, but the UK Foreign Office has called the verdicts “sham judgements”.

On Friday, a Russian journalist shared a video of Mr Aslin singing the Russian national anthem, weeks after he was handed the death penalty.

It came after a British aid worker who was detained by Russian separatists in Ukraine died earlier this week.

Paul Urey is believed to have died “due to sickness” on 10 July, according to information his family has received from the Foreign Office.

Officials from the DPR said he died in captivity from underlying health conditions and “stress”.


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