Russia and Ukraine carried out an surprising prisoner swap on Wednesday, the biggest because the warfare started and involving nearly 300 individuals, together with 10 foreigners and the commanders who led a protracted Ukrainian defence of Mariupol earlier this yr.
The foreigners launched included two Britons and a Moroccan who had been sentenced to demise in June after being captured preventing for Ukraine. Also freed have been three different Britons, two Americans, a Croatian, and a Swedish nationwide.
The timing and magnitude of the swap got here as a shock, given Russian President Vladimir Putin had introduced a partial troop mobilisation earlier within the day in an obvious escalation of the battle that started in February. Pro-Russian separatists had additionally stated final month that the Mariupol commanders would go on trial.
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President Volodymyr Zelensky stated the swap – which concerned assist from Turkey and Saudi Arabia – had been underneath preparation for fairly a very long time and concerned intense haggling. Under the phrases of the deal, 215 Ukrainians – most of whom have been captured after the autumn of Mariupol – have been launched.
In trade, Ukraine despatched again 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians and Viktor Medvedchuk, the chief of a banned pro-Russian get together who was dealing with treason expenses.
“This is clearly a victory for our country, for our entire society. And the main thing is that 215 families can see their loved ones safe and at home,” Zelenskiy stated in a video handle.
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“We remember all our people and try to save every Ukrainian. This is the meaning of Ukraine, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy.”
Zelenskiy thanked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for his assist and stated 5 senior Ukrainian commanders would stay in Turkey till the top of the warfare.
Kyiv had a protracted and tough combat to safe the discharge of the 5, he stated.
They embody Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov battalion that did a lot of the preventing, and his deputy, Svyatoslav Palamar. Also freed was Serhiy Volynsky, the commander of the thirty sixth Marine Brigade.
The three males had helped lead a dogged weeks-long resistance from the bunkers and tunnels under Mariupol’s big metal works earlier than they and tons of of Azov fighters surrendered in May to Russian-backed forces.
“We’re proud of what you’ve done for our nation, proud of each and every one of you,” Zelensky stated in a video name with the 5 which was launched by his workplace.
There was no instant remark from Moscow concerning the deal and why it had freed males who Russian-backed separatists stated would go on trial later this yr.
Saudi Arabia brokered an association whereby the ten foreigners have been flown to Saudi Arabia. The mediation concerned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has maintained shut ties with Putin.
The freed prisoners included U.S. residents Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, each from Alabama, who have been captured in June whereas preventing in japanese Ukraine.
Also freed have been Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, who have been all sentenced to demise by a court docket within the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Large numbers of foreigners have travelled to Ukraine to combat since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
The head of the U.N. human rights mission in Ukraine stated earlier this month that Russia was not permitting entry to prisoners of warfare, including that the U.N. had proof that some had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment that might quantity to warfare crimes.
Russia denies torture or different types of maltreatment of POWs.
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