the government of Ukraine informed this Thursday, 22, that it carried out the biggest exchange of prisoners with the Russia since the beginning of the war. The deal came after Turkey’s mediation, with negotiations held in strict secrecy, and involved a prominent ally of the Russian resident, Vladimir Putinin Kiev.
According to a statement from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr ZelenskyMoscow released 215 prisoners, including Ukrainian border guards, police, soldiers and others, in addition to those of Ukrainian fighters. Azov battalion, captured in May after the months-long siege at the Azovstal steelworksin Mariupol.
In addition to the Ukrainians, ten foreigners, including five Britons and two US citizens were involved in the prisoner exchange. The foreigners were transferred from Russia to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, 21, according to information in the British newspaper. The Guardian.
In exchange, Russia received 55 prisoners from Ukraine, including the former Ukrainian deputy. Viktor MedvedchukPutin’s main ally in Kiev.
The leader of the most prominent opposition party in Ukraine was arrested in April while trying to escape his house arrest. The tycoon, whose daughter is Putin’s goddaughter, was tipped to take over an eventual new government if Russian troops succeed in overthrowing Ukraine’s government.
At the time, Zelensky asked Russia to exchange Medvedchuk for Ukrainian prisoners of war, but the Kremlin rejected the offer. The Ukrainian leader evaluated the negotiation made now as a good deal.
“I am not sad to trade Medvedchuk for real warriors. He went through all the investigation procedures in accordance with the law and Ukraine got everything it needs from him to determine the truth,” he said.
News of the exchange came just a day after the Russian president announced, in a rare televised speech, the recruitment of over 300,000 new soldiers and threatened to use nuclear weapons against Western countries.
+ Russia can use nuclear weapons to defend territories, says Medvedev
Zelensky said five military commanders, including those from the Azov regiment, would remain in Turkey “in complete safety and in comfortable conditions” until the end of the war. Battalion members have become national heroes after resisting a nearly three-month siege in the Mariupol region in the east of the country.
In Russia, however, the soldiers of the regiment were classified as “terrorists” by the highest court In August. The military unit, which is part of the Ukrainian National Guard, was criticized for its ultranationalist origin and for displaying Nazi symbols.
Russia’s embassy in Britain tweeted in July that the fighters should be hanged. “They deserve a humiliating death,” it read. The Russians are now struggling to explain why the fighters were freed.