Ukraine introduced a high-profile prisoner swap early Thursday that was the fruits of months of efforts to free most of the Ukrainian fighters who defended a metal plant in Mariupol throughout a protracted Russian siege. In trade, Ukraine gave up a distinguished ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and 55 different prisoners.
President Volodymr Zelenskyy mentioned his authorities had gained freedom from Russian custody for 215 Ukrainian and international residents, with the assistance of Turkish and Saudi mediation efforts. He mentioned many have been troopers and officers who had confronted the loss of life penalty in Russian-occupied territory. Russian officers didn’t instantly affirm or in any other case touch upon what gave the impression to be the most important prisoner swap in the course of the almost seven-month struggle.
Of the full, 200 Ukrainians have been exchanged for only one man — pro-Russian opposition chief Viktor Medvedchuk, who’s Ukrainian. The 68-year-old oligarch escaped from home arrest in Ukraine a number of days earlier than Russia’s invasion Feb. 24 however was recaptured in April. He confronted as much as life in jail on prices of treason and aiding and abetting a terrorist group for mediating coal purchases for the separatist, Russia-backed Donetsk republic in japanese Ukraine.Medvedchuk got here to know Putin whereas serving as chief of workers for former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. The Russian chief is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter. His detention sparked a heated trade between officers in Moscow and Kyiv. Medvedchuk is the pinnacle of the political council of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Opposition Platform-For Life social gathering, the biggest opposition group in Ukraine’s parliament. The Ukrainian authorities has suspended the social gathering’s exercise; Putin has repeatedly spoken about Medvedchuk as a sufferer of political repression. “It is not a pity to give up Medvedchuk for real warriors,” Zelenskyy mentioned in his nightly video speech.
“He has passed all the investigative actions provided by law. Ukraine has received from him everything necessary to establish the truth in the framework of criminal proceedings.”
In one other swap, Ukraine gained the discharge of 5 commanders who led Ukraine’s protection of the Azovstal metal plant in Mariupol in trade for 55 Russian prisoners it was holding, Zelenskyy mentioned. More than 2,000 defenders, many within the Azov Regiment, marched out of the Azovstal metal plant’s twisted wreckage into Russian captivity in mid-May, ending an almost three-month siege of the port metropolis of Mariupol. Zelenskyy mentioned the 5 leaders, together with Azov Regiment commanders Denys Prokopenko and Svyatoslav Palamar, are in Turkey, the place they are going to stay as a part of the deal “in complete safety” till the tip of the struggle, underneath the safety of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, second left, talks with Azov regiment commander Denys Prokopenko, second proper, who was launched in a prisoner trade between Russia and Ukraine, in Chernyhiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Interior Ministry Press Office through AP, File)
The advanced prisoner swap additionally introduced the discharge of 10 foreigners, together with 5 British nationals and two U.S. navy veterans, who had fought with Ukrainian forces. They have been launched by Russian-backed separatists as a part of an trade mediated by Saudi Arabia, U.S. and Saudi officers mentioned.
“We just want to let everyone know that we’re now out of the danger zone and we’re on our way home to our families,” Aslin mentioned within the video, as Pinner added: “By the skin of our teeth.”
The BBC reported that the 2 males, together with a 3rd British detainee, John Harding, have arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It mentioned they gave the impression to be accompanied by a bunch of Saudi officers.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the exchanges, calling them “no small feat,” however including that “much more remains to be done to ease the suffering caused by the war in Ukraine,” his spokesman mentioned. The U.N. chief reiterates the necessity to respect worldwide regulation on the remedy of prisoners and can proceed to help additional prisoner exchanges, spokesman Stephane Dujarric mentioned.
The exchanges drew offended feedback from some nationalist commentators in Russia. Igor Strelkov, a Russian officer who led the Moscow-backed separatists within the Donbas when a battle there erupted in 2014, described the swap as an act of treason, saying that “it’s worse than a crime, worsen than a mistake, it’s just sheer stupidity or sabotage.”