Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

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KYIV — Ukraine and Russia exchanged almost 500 prisoners of warfare on Wednesday — together with Ukrainian service members detained throughout combating on the Azovstal metal plant in Mariupol and on Snake Island within the Black Sea — one of many few areas of cooperation between the 2 sides.

It was the biggest such trade because the Russian invasion almost two years in the past, Ukraine’s coordination headquarters for POW points stated in a put up on Telegram. Officers from the United Arab Emirates helped mediate the method, Russian and Ukrainian officers stated.

Ukrainian officers stated that 230 of their service members returned dwelling, whereas Russia stated 248 of its POWs have been launched. Neither set of figures could possibly be independently verified.

“Over a big interval, we managed to conduct a really complicated trade,” stated Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s army intelligence and head of the Coordination Headquarters for the Remedy of Prisoners of Warfare.

Talking in a video posted on social media, Budanov stated the launched Ukrainians included “a fight medic, defenders from Snake Island, Chernobyl nuclear energy plant, Azovstal, border guards, police, nationwide guard and armed forces — that’s, completely all classes.”

“This trade has been ready for a sufficiently very long time,” he stated.

For its half, Russia’s Ministry of Protection stated on Telegram that “all launched Russian servicemen are being supplied with the mandatory medical and psychological help.”

Nonetheless, Russian human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova stated 75 of the Russian POWs have been handed again “with out an trade,” the Russian RIA Novosti information company reported — implying that the primary commerce concerned 173 Russian service members.

RIA quoted an unnamed “supply” as saying that the 75 Russians have been launched in trade for 5 Ukrainian commanders from the Azov Brigade who returned to Ukraine in July.

The Azov members had been captured by Russian forces early within the warfare and reportedly have been below home arrest below Turkey’s supervision. RIA stated the commanders returned to Ukraine “in violation of all agreements.”

On Wednesday, pictures and movies posted on social media confirmed the Ukrainian POWs, many with Ukrainian flags draped throughout their shoulders, being greeted on their return and singing their nationwide anthem.

“Our [fighters] are dwelling,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on Telegram, saying the information of the trade. “We’ll do all the things to return all our people who find themselves presently in Russian captivity.”

Petro Yatsenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s POW coordination headquarters, stated seven Ukrainian service members who had been launched have been taken prisoner whereas combating on Snake Island — the situation of a strategic Ukrainian base within the Black Sea that Russian forces seized within the first days of the warfare.

The garrison there gained worldwide fame after its troopers reportedly responded with an expletive to a Russian ship’s demand to give up.

Yatsenko additionally stated that 12 of those that returned have been taken prisoner on the Azovstal Iron and Metal Works — a sprawling industrial complicated within the southern metropolis of Mariupol that grew to become a logo of Ukrainian resistance. A whole lot of Ukrainian fighters and civilians held out towards a months-long Russian siege, ultimately succumbing in Might 2022..

The prisoner trade brings some cheer to Ukraine’s east, the place the 2 sides have settled into brutal trench warfare and artillery battles, eking out solely small territorial good points.

Over the New Yr’s holidays, Russian forces launched drone and missile strikes that killed dozens and injured tons of throughout Ukraine, inflicting injury past the entrance traces in a vicious present of pressure.

In a latest interview with the Economist, Zelensky stated he didn’t see “any elementary steps ahead to the peace from Russia” that would result in negotiations. As an alternative, he stated, he noticed “solely the steps of a terrorist nation.”

Serhiy Morgunov in Warsaw and Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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