Ukraine and Russia in ‘biggest prisoner swap’ so far

Ukraine's co-ordinating headquarters for the treating of prisoners of war said it was the biggest prisoner swap of the war
Image caption,Ukraine’s co-ordination headquarters for the treatment of prisoners of war said it was the biggest exchange since Russia’s full-scale invasion

By Ido Vock

BBC News

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged hundreds of prisoners of war, in what is being described by officials in Kyiv as the biggest swap of the war.

Ukraine said 230 prisoners, including serving members of the armed forces and border guard, had been freed from Russian captivity.

In exchange, 248 Russians were released by Ukraine in the deal, mediated by the United Arab Emirates.

It is the first major prisoner exchange since last August.

“Our people are home,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on social media. “Today, we brought back over 200 warriors and civilians from Russian captivity.”

In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Defence said negotiations had been “difficult”.

The two countries have exchanged prisoners on a number of occasions since the start of Russia’s full-scale war in February 2022, but the Ukrainian leader said last month that the process had slowed down for Russia’s own “very specific reasons”.

Images showing the prisoner releases were posted separately by Russian and by Ukrainian officials. A video released by Moscow showed some of the freed Russians smiling on a bus.

Ukraine said their freed soldiers included seven defenders of Snake Island, a rocky outcrop in the Black Sea.

Snake Island became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance hours into Russia’s full-scale invasion, when a border guard posted there refused to surrender to the Russian warship Mosvka.

Others released included National Guardsmen captured at the Chernobyl exclusion zone and soldiers detained during the battle for the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Six of those released were civilians, according to Kyiv.

Both sides thanked the United Arab Emirates for mediating the deal.

Last month, Ukraine said it had freed some 2,598 people from Russian captivity during a process of 48 swaps.

Some Ukrainian prisoners of war previously freed from Russian captivity have said they were subject to torture, including beatings and electric shocks.

Russian officials posted footage of their released prisoners returning home on a bus

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