October 3, 2022
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Russia and Ukraine announce major surprise prisoner exchange

KYIV/RIYADH — Russia and Ukraine carried out an surprising prisoner swap on Wednesday, the biggest because the struggle started and involving virtually 300 folks, together with 10 foreigners and the commanders who led a protracted Ukrainian protection of Mariupol earlier this yr.

The foreigners launched included two Britons and a Moroccan who had been sentenced to dying in June after being captured preventing for Ukraine. Additionally freed had been three different Britons, two People, a Croatian and a Swedish nationwide.

The timing and magnitude of the swap got here as a surprise, given Russian President Vladimir Putin had introduced a partial troop mobilization earlier within the day in an obvious escalation of the battle that started in February. Professional-Russian separatists had additionally mentioned final month the Mariupol commanders would go on trial.

President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the swap, which concerned assist from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, had been below preparation for fairly a very long time and concerned intense haggling. Underneath the phrases of the deal, 215 Ukrainians, most of whom had been captured after the autumn of Mariupol, had been launched.

In exchange, Ukraine despatched again 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians and Viktor Medvedchuk, the chief of a banned pro-Russian get together who was going through treason costs.

“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,” Mr. Zelensky mentioned in a video deal with.

“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.”

Mr. Zelensky thanked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for his assist and mentioned 5 senior Ukrainian commanders would stay in Turkey till the top of the struggle.

Kyiv had a protracted and troublesome combat to safe the discharge of the 5, he mentioned.

They embody Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov battalion that did a lot of the preventing, and his deputy, Svyatoslav Palamar. Additionally freed was Serhiy Volynsky, the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade.

The three males had helped lead a dogged weeks-long resistance from the bunkers and tunnels beneath Mariupol’s big metal works earlier than they and a whole bunch of Azov fighters surrendered in Might to Russian-backed forces.

“We’re proud of what you’ve done for our nation, proud of each and every one of you,” Zelensky mentioned in a video name with the 5 which was launched by his workplace.

There was no speedy remark from Moscow in regards to the deal and why it had freed males who Russian-backed separatists mentioned would go on trial later this yr.

Saudi Arabia brokered an association whereby the ten foreigners had been flown to Saudi Arabia. The mediation concerned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has maintained shut ties with Mr. Putin.

The freed prisoners included US residents Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, each from Alabama, who had been captured in June whereas preventing in japanese Ukraine.

Additionally freed had been Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, who had been all sentenced to dying by a courtroom within the self-proclaimed Donetsk Individuals’s Republic.

A lot of foreigners have traveled to Ukraine to combat since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

The top of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine mentioned earlier this month Russia was not permitting entry to prisoners of struggle, including that the UN had proof that some had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment that might quantity to struggle crimes.  Reuters

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