Russia, Ukraine announce significant surprise prisoner swap

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KYIV/RIYADH, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine carried out an surprising prisoner swap on Wednesday, the most significant given that the war started and involving practically 300 people today, including 10 foreigners and the commanders who led a prolonged Ukrainian defence of Mariupol previously this 12 months.

The foreigners released included two Britons and a Moroccan who had been sentenced to demise in June soon after being captured preventing for Ukraine. Also freed have been 3 other Britons, two Us residents, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

The timing and magnitude of the swap came as a surprise, supplied Russian President Vladimir Putin experienced declared a partial troop mobilisation before in the working day in an evident escalation of the conflict that commenced in February. Professional-Russian separatists had also explained previous month that the Mariupol commanders would go on demo. study extra

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mentioned the swap – which associated help from Turkey and Saudi Arabia – had been under preparation for pretty a prolonged time and included powerful haggling. Underneath the conditions of the offer, 215 Ukrainians – most of whom ended up captured after the drop of Mariupol – were produced.

In exchange, Ukraine sent back 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians and Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of a banned pro-Russian get together who was dealing with treason rates.

“This is clearly a victory for our place, for our complete society. And the principal thing is that 215 families can see their beloved types harmless and at residence,” Zelenskiy reported in a video clip handle.

“We try to remember all our men and women and attempt to help save every single Ukrainian. This is the indicating of Ukraine, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy.”

Zelenskiy thanked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for his assistance and reported 5 senior Ukrainian commanders would continue being in Turkey until eventually the finish of the war.

Kyiv experienced a extensive and challenging combat to protected the release of the 5, he explained.

They contain Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov battalion that did significantly of the battling, and his deputy, Svyatoslav Palamar. Also freed was Serhiy Volynsky, the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade.

The 3 gentlemen experienced assisted direct a dogged months-extended resistance from the bunkers and tunnels under Mariupol’s large metal will work prior to they and hundreds of Azov fighters surrendered in Could to Russian-backed forces.

“We’re proud of what you’ve carried out for our nation, very pleased of just about every and just about every a single of you,” Zelenskiy stated in a video clip call with the 5 which was launched by his workplace.

There was no immediate remark from Moscow about the offer and why it experienced freed adult men who Russian-backed separatists stated would go on demo afterwards this yr.

Saudi Arabia brokered an arrangement whereby the 10 foreigners were flown to Saudi Arabia. The mediation associated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has managed close ties with Putin.

The freed prisoners incorporated U.S. citizens Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, equally from Alabama, who were being captured in June whilst preventing in eastern Ukraine.

Also freed had been Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, who have been all sentenced to dying by a courtroom in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Substantial quantities of foreigners have travelled to Ukraine to struggle since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

The head of the U.N. human legal rights mission in Ukraine mentioned earlier this month that Russia was not letting entry to prisoners of war, including that the U.N. experienced evidence that some experienced been subjected to torture and sick-therapy that could volume to war crimes. go through far more

Russia denies torture or other varieties of maltreatment of POWs.

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Reporting by Valentyn Ogirenko in Kyiv, Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh and David Ljunggren in Ottawa
Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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