Russia and Ukraine Exchange Prisoners
According to their own statements, the Ukrainian army and the Russian side exchanged a total of almost 300 prisoners. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in Kyiv reported that 144 Ukrainian soldiers were free again. It was the largest exchange of prisoners since the beginning of the war, more than four months ago. The separatist leader Denis Puschilin, on the other hand, spoke of 144 pro-Russian and Russian fighters who had been released from Ukrainian captivity. According to information from Kyiv, among the released Ukrainian soldiers are 95 fighters who, until a few weeks ago, defended the hard-fought Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, which the Russians have since conquered. Another 43 of them are said to belong to the Azov regiment.
Thousands of Ukrainian fighters had defended the steelworks against the Russian army for weeks and entrenched themselves in underground tunnels of the enormous plant. The last fighters finally surrendered in mid-April, and hundreds were taken prisoner. A pro-Russian separatist official said in late May that members of the Azov regiment could face the death penalty if captured. The government in Kyiv had repeatedly stated that it wanted to exchange the Azov fighters for Russian prisoners of war. On the other hand, Moscow said the Ukrainian fighters should be brought to justice.
Most of the soldiers who have been released were seriously injured by shots or shrapnel. Others had burns and broken bones, the Ministry of Defense said in Kyiv. They would now be cared for medically and psychologically. Since the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine began on February 24, both sides have exchanged prisoners several times. Bodies of fallen soldiers were also exchanged in mid-June. In the process, Ukraine received the remains of 64 militants killed defending the steelworks.
Image by Wikimedia (Mstyslav Chernov)/Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)