“Not so often do tears come to my eyes, but I must say that they were very happy,” says Eric Helgesblas to Dagbladet.
He is a friend of Briton Sean Penner, who was released from Russian captivity on Wednesday.
Briton sentenced to death by a court in separatist-controlled Donetsk, accused of being a foreign mercenary – which Helgesplass had previously rejected.
Benner lived in Ukraine, and is said to have served as a Marine in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The two became known in 2020, when the Norwegian, who also lives in Ukraine, delivered first aid kits, food and materials to soldiers who were resisting separatists on the outskirts of Mariupol.
He was released in a massive prisoner exchange
Helgesplass first learned of the release from a friend.
– Then it didn’t take many seconds before it spread everywhere in the international media, he says.
At the time, a Saudi official told Reuters that Russia had released 10 prisoners of war after mediation under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The 10 released were said to be from the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, Croatia and Morocco, and were supposed to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
The releases were part of what would be the largest prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia since February, in which a total of 270 prisoners of war were said to have been released.
The Norwegian describes the time he sentenced his British friend Aiden Aslin and Moroccan Ibrahim Saadoum to death as a void.
Very little information came from Donbass.
So the news of his release surprised him.
– Did you dare hope that happens?
– Now I have been working with emergency aid very actively for half a year, and I have learned how difficult it is to predict the Russians, but it would be wrong to say that I dared to hope that he would become a free man, he says.
– On the way home
Helgesplass has not yet spoken to his friend after his release.
– I think he deserved some peace around him and his people. He says when the time comes, we will probably meet.
He says he is in Slovakia, near the border with Ukraine, to deliver emergency aid. On Wednesday evening, he celebrated his release with a group of friends.
– There are five of us in five countries who went out and ate separately. It’s become a FaceTime affair, he says.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed On Wednesday evening, it was announced that a total of five British citizens had been released from Russian captivity. She thanked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for his efforts, and Saudi Arabia for its contribution.
A few hours later, a greeting video was posted Instagramwhere Sean Penner and Aiden Aslin thank everyone who worked to get them out of captivity.
We are now out of the danger zone and on our way home with our families, says Aslin in the video.
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”